Dave Hart is a man on the move and the special athletics advisor to Chancellor Cecil Staton is figuring out how to apply resources to boost struggling revenue sports.
The former East Carolina, Florida State and Tennessee athletic director works from his home in Knoxville as well as several locations at ECU.
“I’ve been in three, maybe four offices,” Hart said. “They move me around wherever they have an office available. . . . It’s usually a wall-to-wall type of day, which I don’t mind a bit. That’s the way it should be.”
Hart helped hire new basketball coach Joe Dooley during his initial six-month contract. He recently agreed to extend his services from Sept. 15 to mid-December at Staton’s request.
“Chancellor [Cecil] Staton approached me,” Hart said. “Our routine usually is as I come to the end of an on-site visit, he and I will sit down for a visit for sometimes an hour and a half and just chat about various things that occurred during the week and so on.
“The last visit, as we were wrapping that up, he asked me if I would consider staying through December 15th, the month of December basically, to get the feel for football and the beginning of basketball season and so on. I told him I would be happy to do that and so that’s how that happened and we would discuss it further between visits. That’s how that unfolded.”
Hart said he would be compensated at the same rate during the extension as he was for the first six months.
“It’s the same,” Hart said. “As you look at the language and everything, you’ll see immediately, it’s a monthly deal. It was originally six months and now it’s been extended so it turns into nine months. … Actually, there haven’t been any substantive changes in what we had originally agreed to.
“I will continue to be on site. Usually when I come on site, I stay for usually a week. When I come back toward the end of August, I’ll be here through the first two home football games. That will be a 12-day, 13-day type trip. It just doesn’t make any sense with two home games to be going back and forth. So I’ll extend my visit as we get into the beginning of football season.”
Hart will get a first-hand look at a football program that is coming off back-to-back 3-9 seasons under Scottie Montgomery.
“The priority is to support Scottie (Montgomery) and to assist any way I can as we go through the season, but also to see everything, the game day environment, the tailgating, the things that go around the football game itself,” Hart said. “To see how the coordination and operation of the new football first floor is working, so a multitude of things of that nature in addition to also helping and assisting Joe as he gets ready to open the basketball season.
Hart also will be involved in the continued assessment of student-athletes services.
“I’ve always been a student-athlete centered administrator so we’ll take a good look at that and what do they still need,” he said.
Staton has said ECU needs to allocate its resources wisely.
“We always talk about facilities in terms of where we are and what the needs are,” Hart said.. “There are differences between wants and needs. We have some genuine needs and they’re not luxuries anymore. They’re real needs and necessities. We’ll talk about that and then to be engaged in the assessment of where we move in our fundraising efforts and our development area. Phillip Wood (Senior Associate Athletic Director/Pirate Club) will obviously be heavily involved in those and has been in those conversations. It will be things like that that will gain a lot of the focus now.”
Needs, potential resources
Better nutrition for student-athletes is high on Hart’s list.
“Again, nothing that I haven’t said in prior opportunities to speak with members of the media and fan base and our trustees and so on,” Hart said. “We have some real needs in the area of a training table. That’s a high priority.
“Eventually, we have to plan for an indoor football practice facility. That’s a real need as it relates to football. Those two items are high priorities. We’ve taken a look, a pretty extensive look but it will continue into our peers in the American Athletic Conference — where are they in these critical areas that impact recruiting and where are we and how can we close that gap? Of course, all this is tied to our resources and our existing financial position versus the path we can get on to come out of that. There is a path and we will continue to develop that strategy. That will take a lot of people pulling in the same direction. It’s very doable. The chancellor addressed that (Tuesday) evening at his home with a group of donors. It was a very nice evening for everybody involved. I thought that Cecil did a great job of beginning to lay that plan out for their information.”
The chancellor has only been in his new home for a few weeks.
“It’s very nice,” Hart said. “It’s what you would see at other institutions in terms of the space the chancellor needs to entertain and have people park without issues about weather and everything else. It’s a very, very nice location (Star Hill Farm Road). . . . It’s very close to campus, probably 10-15 minutes max, maybe. That’s a bonus as well. A very nice home, very fitting for the university’s and in this case, the athletic department’s fundraising efforts. Again, very convenient to campus. It really serves all the needs and purposes for Cecil as chancellor to conduct the type of events that we had [Tuesday] evening.”
Hart was asked about the response from potential donors.
“Very positive,” Hart said. “There was a sense and feel of energy. I thought the whole evening was a very uplifting evening.”
Audit of athletic department
Sources say that the athletic department is being audited.
“That’s one that I don’t know much of anything about,” Hart said. “I am familiar with the prior audit, but this one I honestly do not know much about. I know it’s being conducted by an outside group, but that’s about all that I honestly know about that.”
It was not a situation where Hart made a discovery and asked for an audit.
“Oh, gosh no,” Hart said. “There’s absolutely no parallel there whatsoever. This was something that I think may have come from the Board of Governors if I’m not mistaken. Of course, the university routinely does audits. I knew about those. There were no issues in those audits, but I don’t know a lot about this one.”
Compliance investigation, women’s basketball
The athletic compliance people at ECU are giving the women’s basketball program a thorough look, according to reports.
“Compliance is conducting a review and that is all that is really appropriate to say,” Hart said. “Because that’s what’s going on at the moment.”
AAC vs. independent status
ECU competed as an independent when Hart was AD in the 1990s. The American Athletic Conference is a formidable group in football and basketball.
“This is a very good conference,” Hart said. “It is more competitive than I think a lot of people understand. This conference has proven that on the field over the last couple of years, with not only some of the victories that they’ve notched, but also how competitive people in this league have been against what people reference as the Power Five schools.
“This is a very good conference, a very competitive conference. We’re still here at ECU. I think the building process in terms of making that transition is still ongoing. Part of that goes back to the resources as you look at where we currently stand compared to the peers in the American Athletic Conference and where we want to be and where we’re headed. Then you understand that we’ve got a little catching up to do, but that’s very doable as well.”
Monitoring South side renovation
The renovation of the south side of Dowdy Ficklen Stadium continues.
“Very much so,” Hart said. “It will have a distinctive wow factor when people come to the opening football game on September 1st. … Of course, I’m in and out of town … but even from my perspective, each time I return you see just what a big structure it will be. Again, it will have a distinctive wow factor for fans who have not seen it, perhaps since early spring.”
Season ticket sales
The Pirates are in the home stretch for football season ticket sales.
“I think as it relates to the projection that was built months ago that we’re beginning to close in on that projection in terms of what I’ve been told by Lee Workman (Acting Chief Operating Officer/Athletics),” Hart said. “Lee and I talk every day to some degree. … Also the folks in the ticket office keep him very updated. It’s all going to come down to these final two weeks in terms of do we hit that projection, surpass it or fall a little short. . . . I know that we’re beginning to close in on that.”
Hart said the projection is below 20,000 season tickets.
The nonconference schedule is often cited as a driving factor in season ticket sales. Hart will be involved in scheduling.
“That will be part now that will fall into this period in the next month as well as into the extension period,” Hart said. “I have not done much of that at all. J.J. McLamb (Senior Associate AD/Internal Operations) has done an outstanding job with football scheduling and handling those duties and will continue.”
McLamb was scheduled to meet with Hart on Thursday regarding football scheduling.
Hart’s SEC and ACC connections could be an asset in scheduling.
“We’re certainly going to discuss all of that,” Hart said. “That will be a part of that discussion. We’ll see exactly where we go. Obviously, East Carolina wants to continue to play the in-state schools, North Carolina, North Carolina State, etc. That’s a strong desire in that regard. The way scheduling is, you get bogged down with just finding dates and openings. These are the kinds of things J.J. and I will discuss at length.”