Athletics director returns from leadership conference

Athletics Director Jeff Compher aboard a Coast Guard vessel off the coast of Florida

Athletics Director Jeff Compher aboard a Coast Guard vessel off the coast of Florida

After spending a week observing America’s top military leaders, East Carolina University Athletics Director Jeff Compher said he is determined to put a greater emphasis on student athletes.

“I need to focus on people to make us better – not facilities or equipment,” Compher said after returning from the Senior Leader Engagement Program (SLEP) sponsored by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.

“They kept focusing on people, not assets,” Compher said about the briefings he received from senior officers at the Pentagon and at four large military bases.

“I learned that the military really believes in the principle of commander’s intent, which is that the person at the top sets the objective but every other decision is delegated down. The whole idea is to emphasize people over things.”

Delegating authority allows lower-ranking soldiers to feel they are responsible for and in control of their duties, Compher said.

Master Sgt. John Perusek salutes the U.S flag during morning reveille at Homestead ARB, Fla., prior to the start of the day's winter training activities.

Master Sgt. John Perusek salutes the U.S flag during morning reveille at Homestead ARB, Fla., prior to the start of the day’s winter training activities.

“I talked to one (enlisted soldier) on a ship, and he was quick to inform me that this was his deck and those were his ammunition racks. That’s what we need to do here in sports – make our athletes believe that they are in control of what happens in a game, not their coaches.”

Established in 1948, SLEP is the oldest outreach program in the U.S. Department of Defense and the only event sponsored by the secretary. About two dozen leaders from the worlds of business and higher education were invited to the event, which was held Aug. 23-30. Senior representatives of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard served as lecturers.

The intent of the program was to familiarize participants with the challenges faced by men and women in uniform, both on and off the battlefield.

Compher received briefings at the Pentagon, and then toured two military bases in Florida. He participated in a demonstration of parachute rigging at Ft. Bragg and observed a Naval Special Warfare demonstration at a Norfolk military base.

At Ft. Bragg, Compher met Army Master Sgt. John Perusek, a 25-year veteran of the Green Berets. “He told me something that stuck with me,” Compher said about Perusek. “He said in the military what we do is to look past our differences to achieve a common goal. That’s a great motto for us to follow in sports because we have student athletes from all backgrounds and our challenge is to lead them toward a common goal.”

Perusek also is a member of the elite Black Daggers U.S. Army parachute demonstration team who will parachute into ECU’s Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium at the Nov. 7 home football game during Military Appreciation Day.

Overall, Compher said he was struck by how much the military has in common with college sports.

“They deal with young people; we do too. They have those people for a limited amount of time; we do too. Like the military, we are dealing with people who have made a commitment to do something at the highest level, and we have to be able to train and lead our student athletes so they can accomplish their goals.”

— Steve Tuttle


In Memoriam – Jimmy Grimsley



Dr. Jimmy Grimsley, ECU alumnus and faculty emeritus, passed away Jan. 28. He was 70.

Grimsley joined the ECU faculty in 1967 to teach and serve as head coach of both tennis and soccer for men. Following a brief leave of absence to earn his doctoral degree from the University of Georgia in 1972, he returned to ECU, where he continually taught for more than 40 years in the Department of Kinesiology.

He was known for his outstanding memory, student advising and mentoring of former students. He was a mentor and friend to his colleagues. His sincerity and practical advice were valued by many.

As an associate professor, he served as director of graduate studies, director of clinical experiences, and coordinator of physical education programs. He contributed significantly to the University through his service on search, accreditation and other committees, including the President’s Advisory Committee, Faculty Senate, and the Graduate School.

He was a strong supporter of ECU and Pitt County Schools athletics. He served as the scoreboard operator at ECU football and basketball games for several decades.

Above all else, he cared about students and was a strong and effective student advocate. He leaves a legacy as a caring, knowledgeable, well-loved professor, who understood the field of physical education. He will be missed in the hallways of Minges Coliseum.

Gifts may be made payable to the ECU Foundation, Inc. for The Jimmie Grimsley Scholarship and mailed to:

Tammy C. Garris

Greenville Centre, Room 2211

East Carolina University

2200 South Charles Blvd.

Greenville, NC 27858

Mail Stop 301


Named to high school hall of fame

Tynita Butts (Photo courtesy of Alexandria News)

Tynita Butts (Photo courtesy of Alexandria News)

Tynita Butts, the record-setting high jumper on ECU’s track and field team who won the Penn Relays twice and was named an NCAA All-American six times, was inducted into her high school’s sports hall of fame. The ceremony was held Dec. 8 at T.C. Williams High School in her hometown of Alexandria, Virginia.

Butts graduated last May with a degree in sociology and a concentration in marriage and family relations. She is working at an athletic clothing retailer in Washington, D.C., while pursuing professional sports.

She tied for second in the high jump at the NCAA track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., last June. That’s the highest-ever finish by an ECU athlete at the NCAA nationals. She finished her ECU career as the school record holder in both the high jump (1.91-meters) and long jump (6.22-meters). She qualified for the NCAA Championships every year in which she competed at the collegiate level.

During her high school career she was a two-time Virginia state champion and two-time Penn Relays champion in the jumping events. She was honored as The Washington Post’s Track and Field Athlete of the Year as well as Gatorade Athlete of the Year.

Ranked first in the nation in the high jump and second in the long jump her last season as a Pirate, Butts recorded four first-place finishes in the high jump and won the event at the 2014 Conference USA Outdoor Championships.


National champion swimmers return to campus

Left to right Jeff Faucette, Jack McCann and Jake Smith as they appeared in a Sept. 2014 visit to campus, above, and on the ECU swim team in the late 1950s.

Left to right Jeff Faucette, Jack McCann and Jake Smith as they appeared in a Sept. 2014 visit to campus, upper image, and on the ECU swim team in the late 1950s, below.

Three members of East Carolina’s 1959 NAIA national championship swim team returned to campus the weekend of Sept. 20 to attend a reunion of the Sigma Nu fraternity.

Jeff Faucette, Jack McCann and Jake Smith were among 10 swimmers on the 1957 and 1959 teams selected as All-Americans. McCann and Smith each won six events at national competitions. McCann swam the breaststroke and is credited with inventing what’s called the whip kick that now is widely used in competitive swimming.

East Carolina’s swim team also won the 1957 NAIA national championships.

Several members of both national championship swim teams were Sigma Nu brothers. Sigma Nu was among the first social fraternities on campus. The fraternity closed several years ago but is slated to officially return to campus in 2016.

Faucette now lives in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Smith lives in Hickory and McCann lives in Morehead City.

— Steve Tuttle

The national champion East Carolina swim team.

The national champion East Carolina swim team.


ECU player selected ninth in draft by Toronto Blue Jays

East Carolina junior Jeff Hoffman was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays with the ninth



overall pick in the 2014 Major League Baseball First Year Amateur Draft Thursday night, which was televised live on the MLB Network.

With his first round selection, Hoffman becomes the highest draft pick in school history besting ECU Hall-of-Famer Theodore “Blue” Edwards, who was the 21st-overall selection by the Utah Jazz in the 1989 National Basketball Association Draft.



ECU student wins title as best amateur golfer in the Carolinas

Katie Kirk (Photo courtesy Carolinas Golf Association)

Katie Kirk (Photo courtesy Carolinas Golf Association)

By Steve Tuttle

Rising East Carolina University senior golfer Katie Kirk won the 88th annual Carolinas Women’s Amateur Championship on May 22 in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina[t1] . The victory in the prestigious event pegs Kirk as the best women’s amateur golfer in the two Carolinas.

Kirk finished with a total of 220 in the three-day event at the Wachesaw Plantation Club sponsored by the Carolinas Golf Association (CGA). Lane Gakeler, also a member of the ECU women’s golf team, tied for 10th place with a score of 229.

Kirk, who is from Davidson, near Charlotte, birdied the final hole to win the tournament by one shot over two competitors.  “When I was standing on the 18th tee I knew I had to make a birdie to win,” Kirk said. “I just told myself to play the hole as I’ve done all week.”

Her third shot from the fairway with a wedge came to rest within inches of the hole for a tap-in birdie. “It was awesome! I’ve always wanted to win a CGA championship. I’ve had a great week. I can’t wait to come back next year.”

Kirk is a two-time National Golf Coaches Association Division I Scholar All-American, a two-time Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Medal recipient. She has been named to the ECU Director of Athletics Honor Roll four times. She is majoring in economics.

The Carolinas Women’s Amateur is widely considered the premier stroke play event for women from North and South Carolina. Past winners include many of the best women golfers in the region. Among them are N.C. State University golf coach Page Marsh Lea, Wake Forest assistant golf coach Stephanie Neill Harner, UNC Chapel Hill golf coach Amber Marsh, Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame member Patty Moore and Brenda Corrie-Keuhn, a member of the National Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame.





ECU joins in Give Kids a Smile event

ECU dental student Amanda Stroud smiles while getting a hug from five year old Jaden Wilson after she worked on his smile. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

ECU dental student Amanda Stroud smiles while getting a hug from five year old Jaden Wilson after she worked on his smile. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

ECU dental students and student-athletes were among the volunteers at the Give Kids a Smile event Feb. 7 at Eastern Pediatrics and Orthodontics in Greenville.

Volunteers from ECU, along with 20 local dentists, collaborated to treat approximately 140 patients with free dental care, ranging from simple cleanings to more advanced procedures.

Visitors to the event included North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis and Sen. Louis Pate. ECU coaches Ruffin McNeil and Jeff Lebo were on hand as well.

Patient Breana Williams talks to Stefanie Fresenius from the ECU Women's Track & Field and Cross Country. 

Patient Breana Williams talks to Stefanie Fresenius from the ECU Women’s Track & Field and Cross Country.


ECU alumnus scores Super Bowl Championship ring

Michael Brooks

Michael Brooks

East Carolina University alumnus Michael Brooks will join the ranks of former ECU Pirate football players who wear a Super Bowl championship ring.

Brooks was on the winning Seattle Seahawks team for the Feb. 2 contest as a rookie defensive lineman.

Originally assigned to the practice squad, 22-year-old Brooks was recently promoted for game play after two players were  injured.

A native of Roxboro, Brooks majored in criminal justice with a concentration in homeland security. ECU Pirates now have five Pirates with a Super Bowl championship ring within the last four years.