GREENVILLE — East Carolina University announced Thursday that it is reducing the number of its intercollegiate athletic programs by four, effective immediately.

The action is being taken as part of the University’s overall budget restructuring efforts and is part of a detailed analysis of ECU’s athletics financial position during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Affected programs are men’s swimming and diving, women’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis and women’s tennis.

The move affects 68 student-athletes and nine coaches.

ECU previously led the American Athletic Conference with 20 sports (following the departure of Connecticut) and will now have 16 sports (9 women’s, 7 men’s).

The NCAA requires Division I FBS schools to sponsor a minimum of 16 sports including a minimum eight women’s and six men’s sports. ECU will remain at 16 sponsored sports.

In addition to the elimination of sports, several measures will be taken to reduce the financial deficit athletics faces for the current fiscal year ending June 30 and the coming years.

The plan will recognize an estimated $4.9 million long-term savings and the funds that are saved will go toward reducing the current deficit and reducing the institutional investment in future years.

The plan includes the elimination of four sports, significant cuts to operations within athletics, including department and sport budget reductions, regional scheduling and travel efficiencies for select sports, an elimination of several positions which are currently vacant, a limit on summer school for studentathletes and suspending all professional development/conferences for a minimum of one year. The athletics department is exploring additional personnel actions with guidance from the university that will affect all employees.

“Today’s decision came after a deliberate review and in-depth analysis of the athletics department’s budgets and programs,” said Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson. “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,” he said. “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.”

“This is one of the most agonizing decisions you can make as an athletics director,” ECU Director of Athletics Jon Gilbert said. “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,” Gilbert said. “The history and success of the swimming and diving programs and the tennis programs will continue to be celebrated at East Carolina. Matthew Jabs, Shawn 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.”

The detailed analysis by the university looked at a variety of factors in the reduction of four sports. The analysis looked at the amount of financial investment from the institution to athletics; the financial commitments (scholarships, operating costs); sustainability of the programs; the facilities currently being used and the cost to maintain and improve those; and comparisons of sports sponsored by American Athletic Conference institutions.

The university will honor all scholarships of affected student-athletes who want to continue studying at ECU and will complete their degree in four years. Under NCAA transfer rules, students are immediately eligible for competition when the students’ original institution discontinues the sport in which the student practiced or competed.

ECU Athletics and university staff are committed to providing support to these student-athletes through the transition process. Members of the athletics compliance staff, academic staff and leadership team are available to discuss scholarship, transfer information, academic advisement and counseling resources.


NORFOLK, Va. — Old Dominion women’s basketball head coach DeLisha Milton-Jones announced the first hire of her ODU head coaching tenure on Wednesday morning.

Brandy Manning will serve as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.

He comes to ODU from Georgia Tech, where he was an assistant coach for the last year. Milton-Jones was named the eighth head coach in program history on April 17.

“I’d like to welcome Brandy Manning to our Monarch family, expressed Milton-Jones. “He will bring charisma and a vast knowledge of the game with deep recruiting ties. He will be a great addition and I look forward to the contributions he will make towards the continued success of the program.”

Manning has 14 years of Division I college coaching experience, which includes stops at Murray State, Central Florida, Arizona, Southern California, Texas State, Cal State Northridge and most recently, Georgia Tech, where Manning served under long-time coach Nell Fortner. Coach Milton-Jones and Fortner have ties dating back to the 2000 Olympic Games, where Fortner led Milton-Jones and the United States to a gold medal.


The Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID) announced its 2020 honors for Women’s Tennis University Division All-State teams on Thursday afternoon, as Old Dominion’s Holly Hutchinson and Yulia Starodubtseva were named to the All-State Singles First Team, while Starodubtseva and teammate Alesya Yakubovich garnered All-State Doubles First Team accolades.

Hutchinson, who was named the ITA Arthur Ashe Leadership & Sportsmanship Award Winner for the Atlantic region earlier this week, pulled off one of the biggest upsets for the college tennis year after taking down UNC’s No. 2 nationally ranked singles player (Cameron Morra) in straight sets. Hutchinson was selected to compete in the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla. for singles, as well as doubles and also received an at-large bid to the Oracle ITA National Fall Singles Championships in Newport Beach, Cali. The Middlesex, England-native ended the year nationally ranked No. 38 in singles.

Starodubtseva was named the C-USA Athlete of the Month twice in the fall and the C-USA Athlete of the Week once in the spring. In the spring, Starodubtseva went 10-2 in singles and was later named the team’s MVP.

In doubles, Starodubtseva/Yakubovich claimed the ITA Atlantic Region doubles crown, punching their ticket to the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships in Newport Beach, Cali., where they downed three nationally ranked tandems to ultimately advance to the Final Four of the Fall National Championships. Starodubtseva and Yakubovich went from being unranked in doubles to finishing the year nationally ranked No. 7, which marks the highest ranked doubles tandem in program history.