From the Desk Jon Gilbert Friday morning
I am saddened by yesterday's announcement to eliminate four of our sport programs. The decision was gut-wrenching in every sense of the word. It was a difficult day for our student-athletes, our coaches, alumni, the entire athletics program and university.
ECU's Athletics Department mission is to guide and support our student-athletes in their pursuit of excellence; academically, athletically and personally, but with the ongoing pandemic and the rising costs of doing business in intercollegiate athletics it has become impossible to sustain that mission for 20 programs.
The combination of a growing deficit and an uncertain future due to COVID-19 forced us to make decisions that will help us mitigate our deficit and seek long-term financial stability. Our Athletics Leadership Team, in partnership with the University, agonized over the decision.
It's not an ideal plan because it involves heartbreak and despair for many, including the 68 student-athletes and nine coaches who are dealing with yesterday's news.
When you embark on a career in athletics, you don't receive a playbook on how to deliver news like this. The look on the faces of our student-athletes and coaches when I relayed the news yesterday is a visual that will stay with me forever.
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.
Athletics are very important to the overall student experience at East Carolina and provide national visibility to the institution. We are talking about the best and brightest student-athletes who impact all aspects of our campus. I fully appreciate the sense of pride tied to wearing the Purple and Gold, and the value athletics provides to our student-athletes.
Our student-athletes are extraordinary ambassadors for ECU, and we won't forget what our swimming and tennis student-athletes provided to the department.
We should be inspired by the courage of all our student-athletes, especially over the past few months during this pandemic. They have adjusted to the "new normal" and thrived in the new world of attending classes remotely, virtual team meetings and being away from their Pirate Family. Our student-athletes finished with a school-record 3.3 GPA for the spring semester and set another mark with a combined 3.21 GPA for 2019-20, the highest mark in school history.
When we think of our future, the financial challenges ahead, the uncertainty in our world right now, our student-athletes are a prime example of being resilient and willing to adapt to any situation.
Words won't make the news this week any better, but I hope our student-athletes, coaches and alumni understand these actions were made with careful deliberation and what we feel is necessary for the long-term sustainability of athletics at East Carolina University.
For all your support and patience through these complicated times, we thank you. We are One Pirate Nation and we will stand together.
Since the day I arrived in Greenville, I was told Pirate Nation had a chip on the shoulder. Well, I think it's time we get a boulder on our shoulder and band together to build a department that will be sustainable and competitive that we will all be proud of.
It didn't take me long to learn that Pirates are unique. We don't get easy.
We understand we are going to get an occasional visit from adversity, but Pirates fight for what they want.
Dealing and managing with obstacles is our way. There's no doubt we have challenges ahead of us.
With the release of the Athletics Fiscal Sustainability report on Monday and yesterday's announcement, the tendency is to look in the rearview mirror and hold someone accountable.
I choose to focus on the future and play a role in leading East Carolina Athletics back to prominence. I'm asking you to join us on that journey.
We have to stop questioning decisions that have been made in the past. Let's acknowledge those and move forward in a united, positive manner.
It is time to truly unite and move forward together. We have an opportunity to create something special again at East Carolina that others across the country probably don't think is possible.
It's time to roll up our sleeves and prove all doubters wrong.
We will do our part to be more proactive in our efforts to relay the importance of ticket sales and Pirate Club support. I understand we are in uncertain times, but let's be partners on this road back.
It's not always going to be easy and challenging times will occur, but we can't wait to celebrate all the victories with you. We are preparing to have you back in the fall, on campus, and in our venues for Pirate Athletics.
We can only move forward one way, TOGETHER!
On behalf of the entire athletics department, we appreciate your patience and support.
Posted: 05/22/2020 at 09:56AM
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