Cortland community mourns loss of Eric Prior

CORTLAND, N.Y. — A coach, mentor, father of five and community figure, Cortland resident Eric Prior passed away Tuesday afternoon while playing basketball at the YMCA on Tompkins Street.

Prior, 51, was the football coach and basketball coach at the Groton Central School District. He was also slated to be an assistant coach for the Tompkins Cortland Community College men's basketball team in the 2019-2020 season.

Since the news of Prior's death, the Cortland community has shown an outpouring of support on social media. A GoFundMe page created by Jennifer Alexy, a family friend, has raised more than $34,000.

"This community lost a huge pillar," Alexy said. "There love for each other and their family was like no other."

Besides his coaching accomplishments, Prior made an effort to earn his college degree three decades after he first enrolled at SUNY Cortland.

“It is the most overwhelming, wonderful feeling that I’ve had since marrying my wife and having our children,” Prior said of graduating college in 2017. “I walked out last Friday from Neubig Hall with my cap and gown and tassel. That really hit home, like, ‘You’ve done it. You’re almost there.’”

The money raised in the GoFundMe campaign will go toward covering funeral expenses and supporting the Prior family.