Compher Q&A, Part Two

Jeff Compher (Photo courtesy of ECU Athletics)

Inside ECU Sports caught up with athletic director Jeff Compher to discuss his first year at East Carolina. Here's part two of the two-part Q&A.

Josh Graham: What are some of the changes from an administrative standpoint or from a facility standpoint?

Jeff Compher: "Well, we obviously need to look at where we're going to incorporate our new marks. We've talked about everything from the Boneyard padding to the flags around the stadiums to all those kinds of things—how we're going to phase that in. That's an important part of what we're going to do.

We're looking several other projects. Obviously, one of them is the actual Hall of Fame and getting project done. We're evaluating our tennis courts right now because we have a tennis facility that is on campus, it's nice, it's a great location. The courts aren't playable for us because of some of the seepage of moisture that comes up through the cracks. We're looking at that as an issue. We're replacing our scoreboards in Minges so that we have new video boards and new scoreboard capacity. Great timing to go into the new league with.

Those are some of the big projects. Other little projects we're looking at, as well. We're looking at re-sodding our football field and those kinds of things. Those are things that are important, but are routine in some ways. None of those are directly affiliated with the conference, but the timing is with it."

JG: Aside from the short-term projects you mentioned, what are some of the other things you hope to accomplish in, say, the next 365 days?

JC: "Well, hopefully we'll put an end to our campaign. That's the big thing. We'll finish the Step Up to the Highest Level campaign. We have a match going on right now called the No Quarter Match, which $150,000 was put up by the executive committee of the Pirate Club. That money will be used to match $150,000 of additional gifts. If that happens, we'll finally be done with the Step Up to the Highest Level campaign and complete a $17 million campaign. Since I've arrived, that's been a primary thing for us. We're hoping to have that completed very soon.

On my next 365 days, I'm hoping that's really close to being the first thing I've checked off. Then I think we need to take a collective breath and evaluate. Everybody asks me what's next. Let's kind of evaluate where we are and where we stand. I want to take a look at the competition that we have in our conference and see the kinds of facilities they have and what kinds of programs they run and see where we need to catch up. I think we're already in the lead in a number of areas within our conference regarding facilities for our sports teams.

When you think about, whether it be baseball or soccer or softball or track and certainly basketball, now, with the practice facility. You know, as (head football coach) Ruffin McNeill says, we're second to none. Dowdy-Ficklen, with those facilities and what we've been able to accomplish there, what do we need to do to upgrade our physical plan regarding out athletic facilities?

We need to really identify that, but let's be strategic with that. Let's not just look at something and say ‘that needs to change.' Let's look at how we want it to change in the long run. I want to continue to work graphically and how we're telling our story and whether that's a ring of honor or whether that's a recruiting walk.

I think we need to do a better job of that to kind of display our history and our heritage and our traditions. I think that's a lot of it. I'd like to make sure that we continue, administratively, to get some things done regarding our coaches and make sure they're contracts are up to speed and up to date. We get some administrative things, structurally, in place for them so we have consistency in how we do things. A lot of that might seem boring, but it's important for us to have consistency there. I'm looking forward to getting that done this year, too. We're close to that, but we're not there yet.

Those are just a few of the things that are on my mind. We'll continue to fundraise at a very high pace. We've got to keep up with our conference. We've got to see how these new legislative initiatives from the NCAA impact us, whether it be a full cost of attendance, which is likely to come forward; whether it's meals for students; whether it be additional tickets for recruits; travel. There're plenty of things to evaluate and then figure out how we're going to pay for it. Those are the things you'd like to develop from a timeline perspective and make sure that's right.

I'd like to beef up our life skill program, too. I think we've come a long way this year. We now have somebody that's assigned to us from the Career Center on campus, so that's a big plus for us. I'd like to continue better programming efforts for our student athletes in the life skills area. We're doing a great job, community service wise. But, really programmatically back to the teams and the individuals on those teams, I'd like to do some additional things life skills wise."

JG: You're someone really big on student athlete experience. Talk about your thoughts on pay-for-play.

JC: "I think it's the wrong way to go for collegiate athletics. Our model is based on education, not based on compensation. Until we understand that and until we embrace that…I think we have, for a long time, embraced that. It's not to say that there aren't issues that affect student athletics. If there's a way to provide additional resources to them in some way within the context of full cost of attendance, I can understand that and I'm supportive of that.

But, at the same time, we've got to find a way to pay for that; we've got to find a way to manage that; we've got to find a way to do that in an equitable way. One of the things—at every university I've been associated with, and especially here at ECU—we take pride on the fact that a football player and a women's tennis player have the same levels of expectations in service and opportunities available to them, whether it be through academics; whether it be through scholarship; whether it be through travel. Whatever it might be, we have a really level playing field when it comes to student athletes experiences and services.

So, I would hate to ever see that balance shift where that teams that bring in money are somehow valued differently than a team that doesn't bring in money. For us, it's all about the student athletes. Every student athlete works as hard as the next. It's just the sport and the marketability of the sport is what helps to sustain our entire athletics program. I prefer to look at it the context of an athletics program, not individual sports."

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