By Ronnie Woodward
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Jeff Compher officially took over for Terry Holland as East Carolina’s athletics director on Tuesday, about four months after an Orange Bowl experience that he described as exciting and “a media storm that no one could have anticipated.”
Compher was the athletics director at Northern Illinois last season when the Huskies became the first team from the Mid-American Conference to play in a BCS bowl, landing a spot in the Orange Bowl against tradition-rich Florida State. NIU was the latest school from a non-BCS league to play in one of the games that usually features teams from the Southeastern Conference, Big 12, Big 10 or another major league.
Compher, after speaking to the Greater Greenville Sports Club on Tuesday, said reaching the national spotlight in that fashion can do wonders not only for an athletic department, but an entire university.
“It is the most incredible athletic achievement the university has ever had,” said Compher, who added that student applications at NIU have increased by 18 percent since the Orange Bowl bid. “The number of stories nationally from the day of the announcement to the day we played on Jan. 1 was incredible. Tens of thousands of stories nationally went out about Northern Illinois.”
For Compher, it was also a little hectic.
NIU improved to 12-1 on Nov. 30 with a double-overtime win in the MAC championship game against Kent State, also a nationally-ranked squad hoping for a BCS spot. Northern Illinois head coach Dave Doeren decided the next day that he was leaving for N.C. State.
Compher quickly turned to offensive coordinator Rod Carey and announced to the team that Carey had been promoted to head coach. Less than two hours later, the Northern Illinois-Florida State matchup was official.
“Then we’re on a national conference call and we have ESPN telling us that we don’t deserve to be there,” said Compher, who played football at James Madison. “But I think that actually helped us because then a lot of people started looking at how we got there and the history and the success of our program.”
Compher said the mental state within the NIU football program during the season was critical, and he wants to share that with the Pirates.
“The mentality all centers around believing that you can be there,” he said. “You work your way up to that level — it just doesn’t appear — and so I think that’s what has to happen here. It comes with consistency, great coaching, good recruiting and some stellar play.”
ECU football senior Zico Pasut attended the GGSC meeting. He praised Holland’s contributions to ECU, while adding that there is a sense of comfort with Compher because of the BCS berth.
“He’s been there and walked that path,” Pasut said. “So I guess it does make you feel a little more confident and give you hope knowing that he’s been there and done it.”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at email@example.com, 252-329-9592 or follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.
via The Daily Reflector.