East Carolina didn’t wait until after its final game of its season to part ways with football coach Scottie Montgomery.
Chancellor Cecil Staton announced the move Thursday after consultation with special advisor Dave Hart and the university’s Board of Trustees.
The dismissal is effective immediately. Defensive coordinator David Blackwell will lead the team in its season finale Saturday at N.C. State and through the transition into the upcoming recruiting period.
The search for a new coach won’t begin until ECU hires a permanent athletic director, a move that is expected to happen any day, with Southern Mississippi’s Jon Gilbert still the top target according to several sources.
“As much as we would have liked the outcome to be different, the progress of a program is ultimately measured by its competitiveness, win total and championships,” Staton said in a release. “It is our decision to move in a different direction with new leadership.
“He cared deeply for his players, was an outstanding mentor, and always focused on the word ‘student’ in student-athlete. We wish him all the best.”
Blackwell said the players took the news hard when they were informed of Montgomery’s dismissal at a meeting Thursday morning.
“It’s been an emotional day for our coaching staff, for our players,” Blackwell said. “It was not a good morning, not a good afternoon. But we are where we are.
“… That was a rough meeting,” Blackwell added. “Coach Montgomery was extremely loved by our football players. He’s done a lot for them personally.”
Blackwell said that while “the psyche of the team is rattled,” they would be ready to play and “represent this university in the most positive way we can” when they take the field at Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday.
Montgomery was hired in December 2015 by former athletic director Jeff Compher following the controversial firing of former coach and ECU alum Ruffin McNeill.
Although Montgomery, the former Duke offensive coordinator, got off to a strong start in his first head coaching assignment — winning his first two games including an upset of N.C. State at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium — things soured quickly.
The Pirates have won just three games in each of Montgomery’s three seasons and his teams have never finished higher than fourth place in the American Athletic Conference East Division.
This year’s team has shown signs of progress after opening the season with a loss to FCS opponent N.C. A&T. But despite a more talented roster, led by AAC Defensive Player of the Year Nate Harvey, 1,000-yard receiver Trevon Brown and promising freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers, ECU is 3-8 just heading into Saturday’s game.
Montgomery’s final record with the Pirates is 9-26 (4-20 in the AAC).
“It’s not a point where I say we’ve done enough. Because if we had won nine games, that still would not have been enough for me,” Montgomery said at his final weekly press conference on Monday. “Personally, like I said when I first came here, we came here to win championships. We haven’t been able to do that for a lot of reasons and I’m one of the reasons. That’s the first level of it, accountability.”
Montgomery had two years left on his contract, which includes a base annual salary of $400,000, plus additional compensation for promotions and broadcast obligations. The buyout clause in his contract is for the base salary only.