The last-second decision to shutter ECU’s aquatics programs is forcing 49 student-athletes to make an agonizing choice: Stay at the school they love, or carry on their years-long athletic passion elsewhere. The university pledged to help them through it.
“The affected student-athletes will be our priority and we are committed to offering them our full support during this transition,” Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson said in the May 21 announcement of the cuts.
However, reality for the athletes has been profoundly different. The late decision has left them scrambling to make major decisions about their academic and athletic future. Compounding that, many of them already had signed leases for where they planned to live next year, putting them on the financial hook for a living space they could not use if they decided to transfer.
Terry Gingher, mother of now-former ECU swimmer Ben Gingher, contacted the administration when her son encountered precisely this scenario. Ben, who transferred to ECU last year after the team at his previous university also was cut, will finish his career at yet another school.
“I do not feel he should be held accountable for this financial obligation as he had not choice in this matter and was just a victim of the circumstances,” his mother wrote, closing her letter with a request for “help and guidance as to how to navigate through the aftermath of these decisions.”
Eighteen minutes later, Mitchelson’s terse, two-sentence response said, “If I hear you correctly, your student decided to attend a different university. That was a choice. RonM [sic]”
He offered no resources or advice to help. Other universities who have cut teams are providing substantially more support for those affected. Boise State, for instance, is reimbursing student-athletes for broken leases and even the cost of applying to other schools.
These current and former Pirates, who have done nothing but represent ECU with honor, deserve better than to have the highest-ranking administrator on campus treat them and their families with callous disregard.