Students and people all across social media have said 2019 will be their best year yet. For East Carolina University Athletics, 2019 will be a big year for many reasons and circumstances it has dealt with and overcome.
ECU Athletics has had to deal with coaching changes in football, along with men’s and women’s basketball, while trying to find a new athletic director.
The athletic department had been without an athletic director since March when it released former director Jeff Compher. On Dec. 3, the athletic department announced Jon Gilbert had been named the new athletic director of ECU athletics. Chief Operating Officer Lee Workman chose to retire officially on Dec. 31, after serving in the position since 1984.
The women’s basketball team has seen the most change as three different head coaches have led the team's 14 games in to the season thus far. Former head coach Heather Macy was ready to lead the way for the Pirates, but she resigned due to an investigation led by the athletic department’s office of compliance, and assistant coach Chad Killinger stepped up when needed. Killinger led the women to a strong and convincing 9-2 start.
After 11 games, Killinger stepped down due to a non life-threatening illness and the athletic department chose to name Nicole Mealing as the acting head coach for the rest of the season. The women have played in three games under Mealing and are 0-3 in those games thus far.
Men’s basketball head coach Joe Dooley has led the team to a 8-6 record so far and is now in his first stint competing in the American Athletic Conference. They are 1-1 in conference play winning against the 2018 AAC champions, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. Fans and spectators were curious to see how Dooley would compete in the AAC, and in two games he has already shown that his team can compete with one of the best in the conference.
The football team has had a problem with winning games for the past few seasons on a consistent level. Former head coach Scottie Montgomery led the program since 2016. He had two 3-9 seasons as head coach and was on the verge of a third straight 3-9 season before the athletic department decided to fire him and bring on board Mike Houston.
Baseball head coach Cliff Godwin signed a one-year extension with the Pirates to keep him on board through 2023 after leading them to a 44-18 record which resulted in them hosting an NCAA regional in Clark-LeClair Stadium.
After a dominant season in 2018, ECU was picked as preseason favorites to win conference, according to ecupirates.com. The Pirates will throw their first pitch of 2019 on Feb. 15 against Radford University at home.
The tennis coaches, swim and dive coaching staff, lacrosse, track and field and the softball coaching staffs have remained the same, as all coaching changes have affected football and basketball only.
This year will be huge, as ECU Athletics had been struggling building a winning organization for top recruits to sign and commit to since the department began to fall apart bit by bit. That in turn has caused some fans to not want to come out to any sporting event because they predicted the Pirates would lose in their games, especially in football or basketball.
Building a winning program and organization has been one of the goals at the forefront of ECU athletics for a while. Schools such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University and Duke University have not had problems with recruiting top prospects in any sport. The Pirates want to get to a point where they can compete with not only the state’s best schools, but also some of the best schools in the country, where they will in turn be able to gain the interest of more top recruits in the near future.
With the basketball teams in conference play and the spring sports season right around the corner, fans and spectators now have the opportunity to see if the athletic department will be on the verge of recovery in 2019.