ECU swimming, tennis athletes deal with fallout after programs cut

Joe Mazur Image
Tuesday, July 21, 2020
ECU swimming, tennis athletes deal with fallout after programs cut
ECU swimming, tennis athletes deal with fallout after programs cut

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Spring sports were wiped out when COVID-19 started spreading in March. That was a bitter pill to swallow for student-athletes. At East Carolina University, the news got worse when the decision was made to drop two programs indefinitely.

Tennis player Sofia Anthony was looking forward to her senior season as a Pirate. And then...

"The rug kind of got pulled out from under us is how I would say it," Anthony said.

Anthony, who went to Sanderson High School in Raleigh, is one of 68 student-athletes and nine coaches sent to the sideline. Along with men's and women's swimming and diving, both tennis programs got chopped.

RELATED: ECU suspends all athletic activities after 27 positive COVID-19 cases

"It breaks my hearts for my teammates and all the student-athletes," she said. "To represent their school and our conference and our conference and really put everything you have into it and have it still not work out for you in the end? It's pretty heartbreaking."

Rising sophomore Taye Brown was just getting started collegiately. The former Wakefield High School swimming star had five top-three finishes as a freshman.

"And as soon as they said the words, 'we decided to cut your team' I was like, holy smokes. Like, worst nightmares really do come true sometimes," Brown said.

One of the reasons ECU officials cited for the cuts was missing out on revenue that the lost baseball season would have provided. For the athletes, that's not good enough.

"There are so many other things that could have been done before cutting the swim team," Brown said.

RELATED: ECU swim community not letting program go down without a fight

Despite winning the 2020 conference title, the sand dive team was cut by ECU from the athletics budget.

Scholarship tennis players are scrambling to find other places to play. As for the staff members, they are forced to find jobs when few are hiring.

"I do hate if for our (tennis) head coach (Kristin Burgess). She was left in kind of a bad position," Anthony said. "But I think I've kind of come to terms with it. I'm ready to finish out my senior year and be a normal student, I guess."

Transferring isn't a legitimate option for Anthony. Other schools are interested in Brown, but like Anthony, he plans to return to Greenville.

"Yeah, I'm trying to stay positive. I know the best thing for me is to really focus on education," he said.

Anthony admitted that this will change how she will remember her time on campus.

"I'm sure at some point, some point, I'll be thankful for the adversity that this brought and everything, but I'm sure this will affect the way I look at my four years at ECU," she said.

Though Brown admits it was very tough to balance academics and swimming, he's not giving up on his desire to be a student-athlete. He's planning to try out for the ECU football team this fall.