Compher tabbed to lead ECU athleticsPublished 9:13pm Wednesday, March 6, 2013
GREENVILLE — If at first you don’t succeed, take a small Div. I school to the Orange Bowl and try again.
That was the formula that worked for Jeff Compher, who was named East Carolina University’s latest athletic director on Wednesday.
Compher comes to Greenville fresh off a wildly successful stint at Northern Illinois University where he served as the associate vice president and director of athletics for the past five years.
Northern Illinois grabbed the national spotlight this past season as the Huskie football team won its second straight Mid-American Conference championship and earned a trip to the Orange Bowl where it clashed with Florida State University.
In 2004, Compher was the head of the Western Carolina University athletic department when he applied for the then-vacant ECU athletic director position. He would be trumped by the legendary Terry Holland, who announced in December that he was stepping down from the job after nine years of service.
So when the East Carolina AD position opened up again, it was an opportunity that Compher could not pass on.
“ECU’s been on my radar screen since Terry Holland got the job,” said Compher. “I was at Western Carolina at the time when I threw my name in the hat … I know the support that’s here … I use Greenville as an example of a pure college town. One where everyone in this community cares about their university and I appreciate that so much and that really attracted me (to ECU).”
Compher knows first hand, as he and his wife Cathy lived in Greenville from a time he estimated to span from 1991 to 1993, during which he worked in pharmaceutical sales and his oldest son C.J. was born.
On Wednesday the Pirates brass was thrilled to announce the hire of Compher, a Maryland native, and chancellor Steve Ballard hailed him as the, “best AD in the country that was even remotely considering the job.”
Compher said Ballard played a big role in luring him to ECU.
“When I had the opportunity to speak with Chancellor Ballard I was struck by his vision and sense of purpose,” Compher said. “It immediately attracted my attention. Not just in athletics, but in every area on campus.”
Compher joins East Carolina at an extremely important time as the Pirates are in the midst of transition period with the football team scheduled to join what is for now being called the Big East Conference in 2014, while their other sports remain in Conference USA.
Compher admitted he had some catching up to do on the subject but said he is in favor of all of ECU’s sports being in one conference.
“I think that’s preferable and I think the right thing will happen over time,” Compher said. “I haven’t been involved in those discussion and I can’t give a lot of history on it so I’m just hopeful that it ultimately happens.
“It’s certainly not preferable to have teams playing in different conferences. We want to all be under one roof if we can.”
Another hot topic is just what exactly the name of that conference will be called as Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette and DePaul, otherwise known as the Catholic Seven, are in the midst of breaking away from the Big East and are looking to take the name with them.
Compher said as of now his priority is putting together the most competitive teams he can.
“For me, I would want to talk to the coaches and the student-athletes about that and find out just how important the (name) is. From my perspective the name is kind of secondary to how competitive we are within whatever the conference is called,” Compher said. “Whatever it is, I want to be the best we can be within that (conference).”
East Carolina went through an exhausting process before hiring Compher as the school created a 15-member search committee that consulted with national consultant Chuck Neinas and the Neinas Sports Services.
ECU signed Compher to a five-year contract that will pay him a base annual salary of $415,000.
Compher’s previous stops include working as assistant athletic director at N.C. State from 1986-1992 and directing athletics administration at Vanderbilt from 1996-2000, before being tabbed executive associate athletic director at the University of Washington from 2004 through 2008.