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Committee members discuss ideal AD candidate

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East Carolina baseball coach Cliff Godwin during a pep rally in Uptown Greenville Thursday, May 31, 2018.

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Like most round-table meetings, it took a little while for East Carolina’s athletic director search committee to get past the awkward around-the-room introductory phase at last Friday’s all-important discussion on campus.

Once that passed, however, ideas began flowing and, at least in theory, the perfect candidate to reverse a downward spiral in ECU athletics began to emerge. Committee members answered to chancellor Cecil Staton, who this week deflected reports he was seeking a buyout to leave the university, about the need to fill the top leadership spot for the Pirates’ 19 sports teams.

The candidate was described in broad terms by Staton — “a visionary, transformative, inclusive, decisive leader.” The conversation around the table, however, eventually got more specific and realistic to the needs of ECU, which is continuing to see a decline in football season tickets and attendance and which again turned back the clock to 2005 with last week’s crowd of just more than 29,000 for the Pirates’ loss to Memphis.

The school also is battling a substantial debt while in the midst of a $60-million football stadium renovation project.

“I think fiscal responsibility will be extremely important,” ECU Board of Trustees member Mark Copeland said, also echoing sentiments by fellow committee members Tim Martin (executive president of the Pirate Club) and Carl Rogers (former PC president) that the new AD must be able to reunite a fractured fan base. “We need someone who can bond with the season ticket holder who may not be a Pirate Club member, or with somebody who gives multi-million dollars. I think we need to treat every Pirate the same.

“I think we need a coach’s coach, somebody who supports our coaches but allows them to do their jobs without hovering on top of them so they can be effective,” Copeland said.

ECU baseball coach Cliff Godwin brings the perspective of one of those team leaders, but also that of a former ECU student-athlete.

First on his mind in developing an ideal candidate was fund-raising, but beyond that he wants someone in position to do what has been lacking since former AD Jeff Compher came to a buyout agreement with the university in March.

“Someone who is willing to make tough decisions and then be transparent with the decisions they make, whether the public necessarily agrees with it or not,” Godwin said.

ECU hall of famer, former basketball and volleyball player, coach and Senior Woman Administrator Rosie Thompson placed a focus on communication skills, saying the next AD needs to be able to understand and communicate with everyone under athletics umbrella, not just high-ranking staff.

She stressed the importance of being able to have a conversation, “no matter what type of conversation,” with the new director.

Academics were also high on the list of many committee members, as well as an ability to be proactive in dealing with the ever-changing landscape of college sports, particularly football.

There was an overriding unity in the idea that, if possible, the person should possess either direct ties to ECU or have a grasp on the uniqueness of eastern North Carolina.

“I think they need to come from an institution where football is the driving force, and that they understand that how those 12 Saturdays (game days) go a year drives a whole community and understand what that really means, how that funds the rest of our athletic budget and, quite honestly, how it drives fund-raising across the entire university platform,” Copeland said.

Other committee members include special athletics adviser Dave Hart; Cal Christian (ECU accounting professor and faculty athletics representative); Vern Davenport (vice chair, ECU Board of Trustees); LaKesha Alston Forbes (associate provost for equity and diversity); Jeff Popke (geography professor) and senior associate AD JJ McLamb.

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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