GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Competition on the college level takes a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication. After four varsity programs were cut from the East Carolina Athletics lineup, people poured those same qualities into their fight to save their beloved sports.
It was last May when ECU Athletics officials faced major hurdles. Less revenue was coming into the sports department because of the pandemic and the financial hardships began to pile up.
“As I said in May, the decision to cut four sports was difficult and gut-wrenching. When we went through the process of eliminating the programs, we understood we needed to reconstitute the athletics department in terms of our sports programs and do so while facing significant budget restraints due to COVID and it’s uncertainties,” said ECU Athletics Director Jon Gilbert.
The University cut several varsity programs, including men’s and women’s swimming, diving and tennis, forcing athletes and coaches to go elsewhere.
“Obviously there was a lot of emotion involved,” said Kate Moore, former coach and head of Save ECU Swim & Dive. “It was probably one of the worst days that I can remember. I think that most of our kids on the team would say the same thing. The coaches would say the same thing.”
ECU not only lost fans when they made their decision but athletic talent as well.
“It’s unfortunate because a lot of these kids have gone on to other programs, other power five schools and they are swimming extremely well right now. But, it’s too bad that they couldn’t have done that at ECU,” added Moore.
Nine months after losing their sports, athletes and alumni found a beacon of hope.
ECU administrators announced a legal settlement, forcing the school to comply with Title IX laws and reinstate women’s swimming, diving and tennis.
“While challenges remain, we are steadfast in our commitment to gender equity at our institution. In this return of two sports, addresses that along with the gender equity plan to be revealed no later than December 31, 2021,” said Ron Mitchelson, ECU Interim Chancellor.
“I’m extremely happy for the program but at the same time I’m a little bit frustrated because this should have never happened,” said Moore. “I mean it should never have been cut to begin with.”
Supporters say they won this battle, but their campaign is far from over. While the women’s sports are saved, they same it’s time to bring back the other half.
“I don’t think the pirates are the pirates without both the men and women. But, we are at this point excited to at least have the women,” added Moore.
Former coach Kate Moore told 9OYS that a piece of her ripped apart when sports were cut in May, but bringing the teams back gives her a reason to return to ECU and proudly cheer on her Pirates.
Athletics Director Jon Gilbert says these two sports go into effect immediately. As for how soon we can see the ladies back in action — administrators are hopeful for Fall of 2021.