Jeff Compher: "One of them was doing the Goldspys. That event was, when I first met with the student athletes, the first thing they asked me about was, ‘We want to do this event. Can we do it? Is this something you would promote?' They had done their homework. They knew I had been at places where we had done these things. They knew I was used to knowing it. I was glad we were able to do it and I was glad they took it on themselves to do that. That's been a big thing."
JG: Have you already seen the effects of what the new branding initiative in terms of building a national identity?
JC: "I think the first thing Tom (McClellan) had to do was get it out to the various media outlets that this was the mark we wanted to use. Since that, I've been very pleased with the prominence of our mark. I think, occasionally, you still see things revert back to our legacy mark. The Pirate head. I think we've made a really good media transition into the new media icon."
JG: What have you learned about ECU and Pirate fans that you may not have known when you became the athletics director here?
JC: "I should have anticipated it may be a little bit more, but what I've found is that Pirate fans will have an opinion on just about everything you do. I kind of like it because it keeps you on your toes. It makes you think about your rationale for nearly every decision you make because you know it will be scrutinized to a point of intense scrutiny. I understand that a lot better than I did when I got here.
I would rather have a fan base that is curious and that does have an opinion and wants more than trying to create that from a fan base that doesn't want more. Or isn't that interested. For me, I'm just glad we have people that care enough to have an opinion, that care enough to want answers to their questions. Those kinds of things. That's something that I've learned whether it was through—probably the best example was through the branding effort that we did and the three snow days when people could get on their computer and evaluate the mark in a way that I found to be pretty intense. Beyond that, I think...everything we do matters. That's a special place when you have that."
JG: Your team is entering a league has two basketball national champions from this year and a team that won the Fiesta Bowl last year. Talk about the state of the American Athletic Conference and how you think the Pirates fit into that.
JC: "I think the conference is better than anyone expected from a membership perspective. I think we have premiere teams in a premiere league. When you think about the results, we can play with anybody in the country and be competitive. Not only be competitive, but win and become champions. That level of expectation—for our coaches, for our teams, for our fans—is something everybody's looking forward to.
We've been waiting for this. This program has been waiting to be compared to better programs for a long time. To be put in the mix with that level of competition, I think is a challenge that we've all relished for a long time. Me, for the last year. Some of our programs, for many years."
JG: Do you expect the transition to be seamless or does that really vary from sport to sport?
JC: "There's a lot of little things behind the transition that we have to be cognoscente of, whether it's game operations, scheduling, championships and how they operate. It's going to take us a full year, I think, to kind of learn the ways of this conference. We've been in Conference USA for how long now? 17 years? When you've been in there that long, you have a way of, ‘Well, that's how the conference does it.' So you expect the next conference to do it that way.
What I've been telling our staff is to expect change. Don't expect the same. So that way we don't go in and we're thinking they're going to do it exactly the way (Conference USA does). They're probably going to do it different than the way Conference USA did it. If it happens to be the same, in the long run, that's a bonus for us because we don't have to change the way we go about business. I'm telling everybody from operations to how we schedule, everything, we have to expect a change, not expect the same.
I think we knew that when we came into the league, but it's becoming a reality now that you see things like our football schedule; when you see parameters around basketball scheduling; when you see game operations and guidelines there; how we mark our fields. All those things are going to be different. How we adorn our facilities will have an impact based on what the conference expectations are."
JG: With the upgrade in league competition, how does your approach change to scheduling? It's a topic a lot of people talk about with football, but really it's relevant in basketball, as well. With the competition rising, does the approach to nonconference scheduling change?
JC: "It does. We want to play more home games. That's a big part of what we do. I saw some statistic—now this is, maybe, a couple years old information—that you're 70 percent more likely to win a home game than an away game.
So, the more home games we can schedule, the better. We've talked to both our men's and women's programs about looking at that and doing that. That would mean that we would have more guaranteed games that we'd be bringing opponents in to play us in a one-off kind of game. So, it wouldn't always be a home-and-home. We would bring teams in to play us."
JG: As someone who's spent time in North Carolina, how important is it to schedule North Carolina in-state teams? Particularly the ACC schools in Duke, N.C. State and Carolina and all them, but really in baseball, as well, playing Campbell and UNC-Wilmington. How important is that to you?
JC: "It's very important. I want to continue it. I think our fans relate well to those in-state institutions and universities. We certainly want to continue to play them."