It’s beginning to look more and more likely that Scottie Montgomery will be back as the football coach at East Carolina again next season.
This is neither an endorsement of the job Montgomery has done to date nor an opinion based on the team’s performance in Saturday’s 37-10 loss to undefeated Central Florida, though there were at least a few encouraging aspects to come out of the Pirates’ homecoming performance.
Rather, it’s a reasonable assumption rooted in the reality of current circumstance and last week’s admission by “special advisor” Dave Hart that there is still “no timetable” for hiring hiring a permanent athletic director.
With no search committee in place and no apparent hurry in finding a replacement for Jeff Compher seven months since he was unceremoniously shown the door, it is almost a certainty that a new AD will not be in place by the time the current football season ends.
Theoretically, Hart could end up being the one that makes the determination on Montgomery’s future since, according to his published job description, he is charged with providing operational and strategic guidance to chancellor Cecil Staton relating to all aspects of the athletic program.
And he was the man that pulled the trigger on the hiring of basketball coach Joe Dooley last April.
But that coaching search was already well underway by the time Hart entered the picture. All he had to do was come in and close the deal.
In the case of Montgomery and the football program, Hart would be the one that creates the opening. Whether or not Hart would be the one that fills the position would then be uncertain, since his current three-month extension is set to expire on Dec. 15.
It should also be noted that because of the new early signing period, any coaching change made or even being discussed around mid-December could severely damage the current recruiting cycle and set any rebuilding process back at least a full year.
If not more.
Even if Staton extends Hart again, his interim status will likely preclude him from making such an important personnel decision.
Having been an athletic director himself, including a stint at ECU from 1987-95, Hart knows that the last thing an incoming leader wants or needs is to be saddled with a newly installed coach he didn’t hire.
Besides, in an interview with Bonesville.net this summer, Hart seemed to imply that the ECU’s administration was just as much to blame as Montgomery — if not more so — for the back-to-back 3-9 records through which the Pirates suffered in the rookie coach’s first two seasons with the Pirates.
“Scottie is doing his part recruiting. Now we’ve got to help him,” Hart said at the time. “We’ve got to help all of our coaches compete in the American (Athletic Conference), because at some point it’s pretty simplistic. You’re either going to be a player or you’re going to be on the sidelines. We want to be a player. The chancellor wants us to be a player.
“Right now, though, we’re largely on the sidelines. We’ve got to get to the point where we can create enough financial support to erase any or the voids that exist in recruiting. That’s critically important. We have some holes there.”
Some of those holes are already being filled, most notably through the upgrades to the team’s locker room and training facilities inside the Ward Sports Medicine Building. The depth of the Pirates’ talent pool has also been improved with two strong recruiting classes and another one in the process of being assembled.
It’s undeniable that progress has been made, but there comes a point in which progress must begin to be measured in wins.
That time could conceivably come this season with several winnable games still to play and an exciting young quarterback being given the opportunity to inject some energy into a program desperately in need of anything to be excited about.
More likely, however, is that judgment day for Montgomery and his staff is still at least a year away. Assuming, of course, that ECU has a full-time athletic director by then.