Compher Completes First Year

Jeff Compher (Photo by Kat Jessick)

Jeff Compher sat down with InsideECUSports.com to discuss his first year as ECU's Director of Athletics and what steps are being taken to prepare for the American Athletic Conference.

Inside of East Carolina athletics director Jeff Compher’s office, there is a three-piece whiteboard on the wall that is filled with different lists, priorities and goals scribbled all over the place in four or five vibrant colors.

To the untrained eye, this board may look like nothing more than unorganized mayhem or chicken scratch. But for Compher, it represents the blueprint for what he has already accomplished as well as what he has his sights set on for the Pirates’ future in the American Athletic Conference.

Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of Compher taking over as ECU’s Director of Athletics, albeit part of him feels like it hasn’t t been that long.

“In some ways, I still feel very new and in other ways, I feel like I’ve been here a long time,” Compher told IES. However, he knows he’s still relatively new when people come up to him and say “welcome” and “how do you like living in Greenville?”

Although these past 365 days seemed to pass quickly, that shouldn’t suggest the transition was slow for Compher. Actually it’s just the opposite – as he hit the ground running from the moment he stepped for in Greenville from Northern Illinois last spring.

The $17 million basketball practice facility – the Williams-Smith Center – that opened in August is nearly paid-in-full and a new branding initiative was made public this Winter in conjunction with the athletics department’s “Undaunted” strategic plan are just a couple of Compher and his department’s administrative accomplishments.

Then there is the success on the field.

ECU had just its second 10-win football season in school history in 2013. The men’s basketball team coupled its first pair of back-to-back winning regular seasons since 1997. Even in baseball, the Pirates took two of three at No. 12 Rice, swept North Carolina for the first time since 1994 and beat N.C. State. And these are just in the three most popular sports.

ECU will begin its membership of the American Conference on July 1 and as a specific section of Compher’s whiteboard reveals, steps are already being taken to make the transition from Conference USA as seamless as possible.

“There are a lot of little things that we have to be cognizant of,” Compher said. “It’s going to take us a full year I think to learn the way of this conference.”

“What I’ve been telling our staff is ‘expect change. Don’t expect the same.’”

Aside from the obvious changes in scheduling and level of competition, there are several administrative and facilities changes – both big and small – that are in the works.

Compher brought up four major projects: replacing Minges Coliseum’s scoreboards with updated video boards, completing the ECU Hall of Fame, making a $500,000 renovation to the Minges Natatorium and evaluating the Pirates’ on-campus tennis courts, which could be deemed unplayable because of moisture seepage.

Adjustments are also being made in non-conference scheduling, where Compher wants to continue playing top-tier opponents, but not have to travel on the road for many of them.

“You’re 70 percent more likely to win a home game than an away game. So the more home games we can schedule, the better,” he said.

When Compher was introduced last year, he joked that one of the most satisfying things about returning to North Carolina and ECU in particular was being able to eat B’s Barbeque again. But similar to way he described his first year as the school’s athletics director, his access to southern cuisine exceeded even his highest expectations.

“I was glad to see Chico’s was still here, but the topper was having a Mellow Mushroom,” Compher said, laughing. “I can combine the old with the new and the tradition with some of the things that I had when I was here 22 years ago.”

The same could be said for the current state of ECU athletics. The colors and traditions remain mostly unchanged, but thanks to Compher, the future outlook is brighter than ever before – which is far better than how any barbeque or pizza could ever taste.

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