East Carolina cuts their athletic programs to the minimum of 16
by Andy Hilton, recruit757
Thursday was another sad day in sports.
East Carolina University athletic director Jon Gilbert announced the closure of the men’s swimming and diving, women’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis and women’s tennis programs.
“This is one of the most agonizing decisions you can make as an athletics director,” ECU Director of Athletics Jon Gilbert said. “There is no right time or easy way to take these actions because you are affecting people. These decisions were made for the long-term sustainability of athletics at East Carolina University. The fallout from COVID-19 has affected every revenue stream for our department and we must take immediate action and implement cost-saving measures to address the mounting financial challenges.
“The coaches and student-athletes for these respective sports have all impacted our department and the Pirate Family in a positive manner. This decision was not made lightly,” Gilbert said. “The history and success of the swimming and diving programs and the tennis programs will continue to be celebrated at East Carolina. Matthew Jabs, Shawn Heinchon and Kirstin Burgess are not only successful coaches, but they have contributed greatly to our community and have been role models for our student-athletes.”
The NCAA mandates that universities with Division I FBS Football must maintain at least 16 scholarship athletic programs. East Carolina had led the American Athletic Conference with 20 scholarship athletic programs before the cuts.
According to the university’s press release, the plan includes the elimination of four sports, significant cuts to operations within athletics, including department and sport budget reductions, regional scheduling and travel efficiencies for select sports, an elimination of several positions which are currently vacant, a limit on summer school for student-athletes and suspending all professional development/conferences for a minimum of one year. The athletics department is exploring additional personnel actions with guidance from the university that will affect all employees.
The official statement explained the decision making process.
The detailed analysis by the university looked at a variety of factors in the reduction of four sports. The analysis looked at the amount of financial investment from the institution to athletics; the financial commitments (scholarships, operating costs); sustainability of the programs; the facilities currently being used and the cost to maintain and improve those; and comparisons of sports sponsored by American Athletic Conference institutions.
The university will honor all scholarships of affected student-athletes who want to continue studying at ECU and will complete their degree in four years. Under NCAA transfer rules, students are immediately eligible for competition when the students’ original institution discontinues the sport in which the student practiced or competed.
Gilbert issued a companion statement on Friday.
“There is nothing to be said to make the situation any better.
These student-athletes did absolutely nothing wrong to deserve this. They came to East Carolina to be a Pirate and earn a quality education. We will honor all athletic scholarships for student-athletes who decide to remain here and support those who may leave to continue their sport at another university.
The student-athletes affected left their mark on our department and University, contributing in a positive manner to the community, excelling in the classroom and being role models for the next generation of Pirates.
The head coaches (Matt Jabs, Shawn Heinchon, Kirsten Burgess) affected by yesterday’s news worked extremely hard to develop young men and women. Matt and Kirsten are former ECU student-athletes and showed our student-athletes what it means to compete like a Pirate. Shawn spent 17 years leading the Pirates tennis program and is passionate about this community.
Not only are we losing three great coaches, but truly special human beings who left an indelible mark on our department and this community.”
– Andy Hilton