ECU Board of Trustees
Decides Athletic Future
by Eric Gilmore

The board of trustees gave Skip Holtz a new contract at their meeting Friday morning. It culminated uneasiness for many Pirate fans hung on the deranged notion that Holtz would bolt for a higher paying job in just two years.

But the other line items of business having to do with athletics may end up causing the larger long-term stir. The board considered a study by a design firm to expand and upgrade Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and also approved the second $50 athletic student fee increase in as many years.

Terry Holland, who has a significant political influence on the board, as well as Chancellor Steve Ballard, listened to the nuts and bolts on the best way to upgrade the athletic facilities, specifically, Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

"The design firm will develop feasibility studies for improvements to all athletic facilities including expansion of Dowdy-Ficklen, luxury suites, new office space for coaches, locker rooms for teams, and end zone seating," Holland said on an Oct. 4 radio interview on Pirate Radio's "Live @ Five".

Now that the blueprints have been drawn, the board's response will determine whether cranes will litter the athletic complex for the next couple of seasons.

"Our dream is to bowl in the scoreboard end of the stadium and create as many lower level seats as possible," Holland said in the same interview.

Later, Holland restated how important the study, which was revealed on Friday, was.

"We need a professional to tell us how it can be done and how much it's going cost, is we'll figure out what ECU needs for the next 10 or 15 years as best we can tell at this stage, and then start building those facilities."

The design proposal also comes directly after the Chapel Hill Town Council approved a project that would add more than 8,800 seats to the 60,000-seat Kenan Stadium. According to the News & Observer, the $80 million upgrade will include new box seats, new restrooms, concession stands and a new pedestrian path.

With another substantial increase in student fees, ECU's facilities may see similar upgrades.  

The board approved a $119 increase in student fees in addition to the $96 spike in tuition. The largest portion of the 5.6 percent raise will go directly to athletics, which can be used freely for the exception of student-athlete scholarships.

With the nearly $1.2 million increase in the athletic budget as a direct result of student fees, paying off Holtz' brand new contract should be easier. The amended contract calls for one-time supplements of $600,000 in 2008 and $900,000 in 2011 if Holtz remains the head coach for the Pirates. Other incentive compensation includes bowl participation, conference championship game appearances and titles, and season ticket sales.

"I'm grateful to the leadership we have at East Carolina for the confidence they have in the direction that our program is heading," Holtz said in a press release. "I think it's another testament to the commitment that is in place for ECU to compete and be successful at a high level in today's college football environment."

Unlike the UAB Board of Trustees, who decided they couldn't afford paying LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher a base salary of $600,000 on Thursday night, ECU's board remains committed to athletics.

"We want to spend money to make East Carolina better and make this a program that can exist long after I'm gone or Skip Holtz is gone or this coaching staff is gone," Holland said in another interview with Pirate Radio on "Live @ Five" on Dec. 5. "I'm a lot more interested in building programs than I am just winning games." 

Depending on the result of the design proposal, the board may be just as interested in building buildings.

Eric Gilmore