East Carolina University cuts 4 sports as part of plan to save $4.9 million

East Carolina University Pirates mascot. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

East Carolina University Pirates mascot. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

GREENVILLE, N.C. — East Carolina University is cutting both men’s and women’s swimming and tennis teams in an effort to cut costs, according to a news release.

ECU made the announcement Thursday.

The university says this decision comes as part of a budget restructuring effort.

By eliminating men’s swimming and diving, women’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis and women’s tennis, the university expects to save $4.9 million longterm while impacting 68 student-athletes and nine coaches.

This leaves the university with 16 remaining sports; nine women’s teams and seven men’s teams. 16 is the minimum number of sports university must have to remain a Division I FBS school.

ECU also plans to take additional steps such as significant cuts within athletics operations, eliminating several vacant positions, limits on summer school for student-athletes and suspending all professional development/conferences for at least one year.

These efforts, combined, could save the university about $4.9 million longterm. That savings will help the university cut into its deficit and institutional investment.

Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson said in a statement:

“Today’s decision came after a deliberate review and in-depth analysis of the athletics department’s budgets and programs. The current athletics budget was not sustainable pre-COVID-19 and the university was working closely with athletics to decrease the annual deficit over the next year. With the pandemic, the deficit began to grow significantly where the impact was immediate and will affect future revenue and expenses for years to come. Ultimately, the reduction of sports aligns ECU with our American Athletic Conference peers and provides a roadmap to a more sustainable future for the University and athletics.

“The affected student-athletes will be our priority and we are committed to offering them our full support during this transition. We will honor all athletic scholarships for students who decide to remain at ECU to complete their degree and are committed to ensuring their success here. Athletics is an important part of our overall campus community and this is a difficult day for Pirate Nation, and the impact of this decision is not taken lightly.”

ECU Director of Athletics Jon Gilbert said:

“This is one of the most agonizing decisions you can make as an athletics director. 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. The history and success of the swimming and diving programs and the tennis programs will continue to be celebrated at East Carolina. Matthew JabsShawn 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.”

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