Former East Carolina, Florida State, Alabama and Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart has been named special advisor to ECU chancellor Cecil Staton to provide guidance to Staton regarding athletics and to head up the search for a head basketball coach.
The university announced the appointment in a press release Thursday afternoon.
In the wake of an agreement last week by Jeff Compher to relinquish his AD role, the engagement of Hart ensures that the process of identifying and hiring a successor to former Pirate basketball coach Jeff Lebo will be overseen by one of the most highly regarded executives in college athletics.
“I feel honored to be in a position to assist East Carolina University in the role of a special advisor to Chancellor Staton on athletics matters,” said Hart. “ECU is a very special place to Pam and me. We have many great memories of the community, the people and the passion that surrounds East Carolina.”
Hart joined ECU’s athletic department in in a marketing capacity in 1983 and soon developed and implemented the concept of the “Great Pirate Purple-Gold Pigskin Pigout Party.” He was named associate AD for external affairs and Pirate Club executive director in 1985. Two years later Hart was appointed director of athletics, a position in which he served until being lured away by FSU in 1995.
“Our family has known Dave Hart for decades,” said Edwin Clark, ECU Board of Trustees member and son-in-law of recently deceased ECU benefactor Walter Williams. “He was instrumental in our initial engagement in the Pirate Club in the mid-1980s. Like us, many of the Pirate Nation faithful have watched with pride as he went on to great successes at several national programs. It’s exciting to have Dave back home in Greenville as we make some very important decisions about ECU Athletics,”
During his tenure as AD in Greenville, Hart negotiated a television contract for then-independent ECU with ESPN, an arrangement that was unheard of at the time with the exception of then-independent Notre Dame’s TV contract with NBC. The ESPN executive with whom Hart negotiated the deal was current American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco.
One of the candidates presumed to be in the mix for the ECU hoops job, Florida Gulf Coast head coach Joe Dooley, served four years as ECU’s coach from 1995-99 after being hired by then ECU-AD Hart. Dooley’s Pirate teams compiled a 57-52 record before Dooley was ousted by Mike Hamrick, who became ECU AD soon after Hart departed Greenville to accept the position of director of athletics at FSU.
Dooley is the only coach in ECU’s hoops history dating back to 1965 to put put together a winning career record and one of only three Pirate coachs to have multiple winning seasons.
Another candidate potentially vying against Dooley to fill ECU’s vacant coaching position is Maryland-Baltimore county coach Ryan Odom, the son of Goldsboro native and former ECU, Wake Forest and South Carolina coach Dave Odom.
ECU assistant coach Michael Perry, who was named interim head coach upon Lebo’s resignation, has also indicated his strong desire to be considered for the permanent job.
It can be assumed that Hart will cast a wider net and make contact with other targets to interview for the position.
Hart, who established the consulting firm Athletics Legacy Partners after retiring last summer as director of athletics and vice-chancellor at Tennessee, will also be in a position to give strategic advice to Staton as ECU begins the task finding and hiring a successor to Compher.
Hart’s son, Rick, is the athletic director at AAC member Southern Methodist. Hart’s late father, Dave Hart, Sr., was also an athletic adminstrator whose resume included stints as AD at Louisville and Missouri and commissioner of the Southern Conference.