GREENVILLE, N.C. — East Carolina University announced Thursday it will cut four athletic programs, effective immediately.
According to a release from ECU, the action is being taken as part of the school's budget restructuring efforts and is part of an in-depth 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 have a minimum of 16 sports including a minimum eight women’s and six men’s sports. ECU will remain at 16 sponsored sports.
ECU is also taking measures to reduce an estimated $4.9 million deficit the athletics department faces. The plan includes cuts to operations within athletics, regional scheduling and traveling for select sports, a limit on summer school for student-athletes, and suspending all professional development/conferences for a minimum of one year.
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.
Statement from Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson:
“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.”