GREENVILLE, N.C. -- Jeff Connors has been named assistant athletics director for strength and conditioning at East Carolina University according to an announcement from athletics director Terry Holland Friday.
Connors takes over ECU's top athletic performance position after spending the last 10 seasons on the University of North Carolina staff as strength and conditioning coordinator and assistant athletics director, a title he was elevated to a year after his arrival in 2001.
His new assignment at East Carolina will mark his second stint with the Pirate program after an earlier 10-year strength and conditioning leadership tenure with head football coaches Bill Lewis (1991 season) and Steve Logan (1992-2000). Connors' efforts helped produce five bowl appearances, three post-season victories, 15 National Football League draft selections and representation in two final Top 25 polls (9/1991, 23/1995) .
The Pirates also gained a reputation as one of the best fourth-quarter teams nationally under Connors' conditioning guidance. In 1996, the ECU defense did not allow a point in the fourth quarter until the seventh game of the season, and in 1999, the Pirates outscored their opponents 102-56 in the final period. In 2000, East Carolina held a 94-57 advantage in the fourth quarter.
He is also credited for playing an integral role in the design and development of the Pirates’ 22,000-square-foot strength and conditioning facility inside the Murphy Center, which opened in 2002 after his departure.
"I'm elated and proud to return to a school and town where our family experienced the best times of our lives," Connors said. "Coach (Ruffin) McNeill and I share a similar passion for the program. My experience at North Carolina forced me to become a better coach and I learned a great deal from Coach (Butch) Davis. I'm excited to meet the team as soon as possible and get started."
Connors will provide a direct strength training leadership role for Pirate football while providing oversight and coordinating off-season and in-season programs for the remaining 18 East Carolina teams. He replaces Mike Golden, who accepted a head strength and conditioning coach's position at South Florida January 11.
McNeill, who recently guided the Pirates to a Military Bowl appearance during his first season as ECU's head coach, served on the same East Carolina staff as Connors in 1992.
"We're thrilled to have Jeff back in the Pirate family," McNeill said. "He and I have the same team concept philosophy without tolerance for entitlement and egos. I've seen, by first-hand accounts as a teammate and opponent, what he will bring to our program. I can't wait for our players to get around Jeff and seeing them embrace and embody his spirit and passion."
Connors has been honored as a Master Strength & Conditioning Coach by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches association (CSCCa). The Master Strength & Conditioning Coach certification is the highest honor that can be achieved as a strength and conditioning coach, representing professionalism, knowledge, experience, expertise and longevity in the field.
In addition to helping develop some of the top players in UNC’s program, including Julius Peppers, Jason Brown, Ronald Curry, David Thornton, Kentwan Balmer and Hakeem Nicks, 73 of 77 all-time football strength and conditioning records were bettered during Connors' stay in Chapel Hill.
Connors also maintained department-wide responsibilities for the Tar Heels, conducting the strength and conditioning program for the four-time Atlantic Coast Conference champion and two-time Final Four participant women’s basketball team and had recently taken over duties training the wrestling squad.
Before accepting the East Carolina position prior to the 1991 campaign, Connors was the head strength and conditioning coach at Bucknell from 1987 to 1990.
Connors is a frequently requested speaker asked to present his strength and conditioning program and philosophies to clinics and conferences across the country. He was also a competitive powerlifter who won four state titles in powerlifting and held a ranking as high as fourth nationally. Connors holds Level I certification in Olympic Weight Lifting by the U.S. Weight Lifting Federation and has had numerous articles published in Wrestling USA, NSCA Journal, Training and Conditioning Magazine and Bigger Faster Stronger Journal.
A 1980 graduate of Salem (W.Va.) College, Connors was a four-year starter at cornerback and was team captain as a senior. He led Salem in interceptions as a sophomore and junior.
After college, Connors served as a police officer in Palm Beach County (Fla.) for two years. Prior to becoming a strength coach, he coached high school football and wrestling at The Benjamin School in North Palm Beach, Fla., and coached linebackers at the Tennessee Military Institute in Sweetwater, Tenn.
Connors and wife Michele are the parents of two children - daughter Kaitlin and son Beau.