In terms of accountability for firing Ruffin McNeill as football coach, East Carolina athletic director Jeff Compher has come out smelling like a rose.
It was announced Tuesday by Dr. Cecil Staton, ECU chancellor, that the board of trustees had approved a contract extension and raise for Compher.
The new contract is for five years — to April of 2023 — and includes a raise in salary to $435,000 annually.
Compher had been making $415,000 a year.
The Pirates have done well in terms of academics, community service and the proposed expansion of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium during Compher’s watch.
The peripheral areas have their value but athletic directors at ECU should not be rewarded after the kind of football season the Pirates had in 2016.
Compher can hardly be blamed . He should be smiling all the way to the bank. Staton is the one who jumped offsides to the stunned chagrin of much of the fan base.
A more astute administrator would have waited to see how ECU performed in year two under coach Scottie Montgomery and based an evaluation of Compher accordingly.
His initial five-year deal ran into 2018 and there is not the same degree of urgency in extending ADs as with coaches, who need to assure recruits that they will be around for the duration of their playing careers.
There is a strong possibility that the raise and extension can be justified in December if the Pirates are preparing for a bowl game. Montgomery and staff have certainly generated optimism with the personnel they have attracted in the offseason.
But for now, the numbers that matter are the 3-9 overall record last season and a 1-7 mark in the American Athletic Conference.
Apparently, Staton doesn’t get that.
ECU is a program that got worse immediately after a coaching change initiated by Compher.
When the Pirates experienced their athletic zenith with the 37-34 Peach Bowl win over N.C. State to complete the 1991 football season at 11-1, Compher was an assistant athletic director for the Wolfpack.
Compher played one season of football at James Madison in 1980 before giving it up. Coincidentally, JMU will be ECU’s season-opening opponent in Greenville on Sept. 3.
The board of trustees, which includes former Pirate football player Vern Davenport, signed off on the deal. One wonders if anyone on the board questioned the timing of the new contract or if the move got an official rubber stamp.
The perception of Compher might be different if he had shown some degree of loyalty in his time at ECU but he has actively sought several AD positions elsewhere.
That’s in keeping with the travels of a collegiate gypsy. Compher worked in athletic administration at Western Carolina, Vanderbilt, Washington and Northern Illinois after his stint at N.C. State.
“Jeff Compher continues to demonstrate the kind of expertise and competitive spirit that will make all of our programs national powers,” Staton said.
Perhaps the former religion professor is stepping out on faith.
The basketball team was 6-12 in the AAC last season and the baseball team went 7-17. In fairness, injuries were a factor in all of the revenue sports.
Staton was a state senator in Georgia for five terms from 2004 to 2014.
Billy Ball, writing for N.C. Policy Watch, reported that Staton was involved in an email flap in 2011 when allegations arose that he had attacked Casey Cagle, Georgia’s lieutenant governor, under a fake identity, Beth Merkelson.
Staton and Cagle were rivals in the Republican party, according to Ball. A GOP activist claimed that he had connected Internet activity from Merkelson and Staton’s email accounts to the same IP address.
Staton subsequently stepped down as majority whip.
The N.C. Policy Watch article stated that UNC system president Margaret Spellings noted Staton’s Oxford degree, his background as a publishing entrepreneur, his experience as a fundraiser and his record relating to education as a politician and administrator in summarizing his qualifications.
“But to some, Staton’s hiring is just the latest evidence that Spellings, a former George W. Bush-era education reformer for the GOP, and the UNC system’s Board of Governors, restocked with conservative leaders appointed by the legislature, pursue an ideological, rather than academic, agenda,” Ball said.
The article characterized Staton as an advocate for Voter ID legislation.
The intent here is to present information about Staton’s background, not to judge him on his politics.
Staton is drawing $450,000 annually. His predecessor, Dr. Steve Ballard, was making $322,000.
Ballard nearly hired a less-qualified applicant as AD before bringing in Terry Holland.
Staton has made a mistake, too, but it appears Pirate Nation will have to live with it for the time being. Perhaps the football team can make the issue irrelevant.
A good football season also could help Compher land the Power Five AD assignment he obviously craves.
At the least, it gives Montgomery more assurance of job security since Compher has a greater degree of commitment to him as his own hire. If Compher is around, then Montgomery likely will be, too.