GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina assistant football coach Mark Nelson, who joined Ruffin McNeill's initial staff in February, has stepped down from his position according to announcement from director of athletics Terry Holland Tuesday night.
Nelson, who served as the Pirates’ defensive ends coach and special teams coordinator, and McNeill agreed to the decision after possible NCAA violations were uncovered regarding the illegal observation of voluntary summer workouts.
"I notified Coach McNeill late this afternoon that our compliance office had been investigating concerns about violations of NCAA rules involving out-of-season practice - specifically a coach evaluating players during normal summer activities that were supposed to be strictly voluntary," Holland said. "When a coach observes these normal activities, the NCAA considers the activities to be non-sanctioned out-of-season practice.
"Coach McNeill called the coach in and they discussed these possible violations," he added. "That coach, Mark Nelson, admitted to violations which are likely to be secondary violations when a formal report is filed with the NCAA. Coach Nelson and Coach McNeill agreed that these violations would be a distraction to the team at this critical time of the year and Coach Nelson offered to step down from his position. His offer to step down was accepted by Coach McNeill pending negotiation of a severance agreement with the athletic administration and the university.
"The ECU Compliance Office will file a formal report of the violations and cooperate fully with the NCAA," Holland said.
Nelson, who brought a combined 23 years of professional and collegiate experience to the Pirate program, most recently served as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League (CFL) during the 2009 campaign. Among his 17 seasons of collegiate experience were earlier tenures in the Southeastern Conference, Big 12 Conference, Big East Conference and Conference USA.
Prior to rejoining the CFL, a league in which he coached a total of six seasons, Nelson was Louisville's special teams coordinator in 2007 and 2008 after spending one year at Tulsa as co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach.
He came to the Golden Hurricane from Baylor, where he spent the previous three campaigns as special teams coordinator and a defensive coach who guided the linebackers for two seasons and defensive ends in 2003.
"This is certainly an unfortunate development, but integrity will be the foundation of our program," McNeill said. "We are going to comply with the spirit and letter of NCAA rules at East Carolina. I expect my players to do the right thing, and as leaders, and I demand my coaches to do the same. As head football coach, failure to comply with NCAA rules will not be tolerated."
McNeill also indicated that he will begin a search for a new coach immediately and will also consider staff reorganization depending on who is available.
East Carolina's preseason camp will begin August 5 with the arrival of its 105-man roster. The Pirates will follow by facing Tulsa in their season opener Sunday, Sept. 5.