East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill has been relieved of duties, the program announced Friday.

“After delicate evaluation, the decision has been made to move our program in a different direction with new leadership,” Compher said in a statement. “We are appreciative of the hard work, dedication and contributions Coach McNeill and his staff have made to both East Carolina University and our community.”

10 Questions (and one horror movie review) With: Ruffin McNeill

McNeill went 42-34 in six seasons at East Carolina, peaking at a stretch that saw him go 26-13 with three straight bowl appearances from 2012-14. But the Pirates slipped to 5-7 this fall and stand at 8-8 in two seasons of American Athletic Conference play, which was enough for Compher to justify a change.

Sources the move comes as a complete surprise to the staff.

On a larger note, the 2015-16 hiring cycle was expected to be a tough one for black coaches, and this out-of-the-blue firing is especially hurtful on an already underrepresented group of coaches.

With the move, East Carolina becomes the 21st FBS program to change coaches this off-season. There are eight openings at this time.

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.

National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.