Thursday, September 25, 1997
Tech Pulls a Surprise, Names Weaver as AD
You could have knocked me over with a Wahoo.
In a move that stunned nearly everybody but the AD search committee and Virginia Tech President Paul Torgersen, the Hokies named Western Michigan Athletic Director Jim Weaver as the Hokies' new Athletic Director on Wednesday. Before I give you my thoughts on this, let's check out Weaver's resume:
Weaver, 52 years old, was hired with a four-year contract valued at $150,000 per year, exactly what Dave Braine was reportedly making when he left.
Like most Hokies, I assumed the job was signed, sealed, and delivered to Sharon McCloskey. I viewed the whole "search committee" as a sham, merely a front to give Sharon time to grow into the job before they officially awarded it to her. She is immensely popular in the Virginia Tech Athletic Department, all 19 coaches signed a letter endorsing her, the media was pushing her hard, and when I interviewed Bill Roth last summer, he said emphatically, "I think Sharon McCloskey would make a terrific candidate."
I figured it was a done deal, which is why I've had very little to say on the matter lately. I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't say anything that would have been stupid or that I may have regretted.
You may or may not recall my "Portrait of the Next Virginia Tech AD," which can be found in my June 17, 1997 archive. In the piece, I wrote that I didn't think that Sharon was ready for the job. The ideal AD that I described in the piece was, well, almost exactly like Jim Weaver. I wanted an AD from a mid-major school with ties to the power conferences and "schmoozability." Weaver pretty much fits the bill.
While the media was busy shoving Sharon McCloskey down our throats (please note that that's a jab at the media, not Sharon), they were guilty of not telling us anything about the other finalists for the job. All we were told was that Miami (OH) AD Eric Hyman and Western Michigan AD Jim Weaver were also among the finalists.
On the surface, that sounds lame. Miami and W. Michigan are okay schools, but they're not big players in NCAA athletics. Most notably missing from the list of finalists were ETSU AD Keener Frye (a Tech alumnus), and Villanova AD Gene DiFillipo (I'm pretty sure I spelled that wrong), who took the Boston College AD job about a week ago.
It appeared as if the search committee was setting Ms. McCloskey up for success by picking a couple of other guys who weren't very impressive. Again, this is before I knew anything about Weaver. Hindsight tells me that the search committee was doing a hell of a job. An important point here is that the committee contacted Weaver first, not vice-versa.
Boy, am I glad I didn't open my mouth and say anything about the perceived "search committee charade" in public, because I would have looked pretty foolish. Dr. Torgersen and the search committee proved what Bill Roth tried to tell us in the HokieCentral interview - the search committee had Tech's best interests at heart. I think that Jim Weaver was indeed the best candidate for the job, and Sharon McCloskey herself admitted as much in a taped interview.
Sharon made a lot of fans with her comments after the press conference, in which she basically said that she wasn't too disappointed, because Weaver was a better candidate. She would have been upset, she said, if the candidate chosen in front of her had not been a better candidate. Sharon continues to be a loyal Virginia Tech supporter, and she wants what's best for Virginia Tech.
And she thinks we got it.
The Press Conference
I was able to hear a tape of the press conference, and Weaver made no bones about the fact that membership in an all-sports conference is Job One. By speaking about it publicly at his first press conference, I like to think that he has fired the first warning shot to the Big East: extend the welcome mat or we're walking.
Weaver talked about the conference realignments that are going to occur after the 2000 college football season. I rolled my eyes when a reporter actually asked him what was significant about the year 2000. After some hesitation, in which you could tell that he was thinking, You mean you don't know?, Weaver showed his smarts by saying, "That's when the current TV contracts expire."
Another reporter had already tried to dredge up Tech's off-the-field troubles (grrr), which as they say in the movie Clueless, is "so last season." Weaver blew off the question, and then said that he had read Tech's "Comprehensive Action Plan," which was written in the wake of last year's football player arrests, and which details athlete behavior and counseling policies. Weaver said he felt it was a "well-thought-out, well-reasoned document."
When asked if he was comfortable being the enforcer of those policies, Weaver said something to the effect of, "For $150,000 a year, you bet I'm comfortable with it."
To extend the thread of unimaginative questions from the reporters, another one asked him about - get this - non-conference football scheduling. I can tell you that I personally have just about had it up to here with that topic, and Weaver again hesitated, as if wondering What the hell kind of question is that? He gave some vanilla answer like, "Yes, I'm responsible for that, and I'll involve the football coach when making up the schedules." Well, duh!
After a series of these lame questions, a reporter finally did ask a good one. He asked Weaver why he left UNLV. Weaver responded that he left when "they tried to hire back Tarkanian's assistant," and then he didn't seem to want to discuss the matter further.
Here's how I interpret that exchange: Weaver was brought into UNLV because, from his days at Florida, he had significant experience dealing with the NCAA infractions committee. UNLV was getting dragged through the muck, deservedly so, by the NCAA over Tarkanian. My guess is that Weaver spent the bulk of his time at UNLV trying to clean up Tarkanian's mess, and when "they" wanted to hire Tarkanian's assistant back, presumably for the head coaching job, Weaver probably lost it and pretty much quit on the spot. I can't blame him.
My guess is that Weaver then took the Western Michigan job to keep himself in work, because let's be honest, WMU is a step down from Florida and UNLV.
Boy, I just know I'm going to get email from a WMU alumnus or two on that one....
Nice job by President Torgersen and the committee, and here's hoping that Sharon McCloskey turns down the "standing job offer" she has at Georgia Tech and decides to remain here at Virginia Tech. With Weaver's contacts and various areas of expertise, and Sharon's knowledge of the day-to-day workings and recent athletic history of Virginia Tech, we're in good shape - if she decides to stay. If she decides to go, it'll hurt, because we've already lost Jeff Bourne, who was another good one, to Dave Braine and Georgia Tech.
If you would like to contact President Torgersen and/or Sharon McCloskey via email, both of their email addresses are posted on my freshly-updated VIP Emails page.
Injuries and the Weight Room
Much has been written about the significant number of injuries that the Hokies have suffered going into the Arkansas State game. In a way, this is not a surprise to me. When I interviewed Bill Roth last summer, he gave me a tour of the Jamerson Athletic Center, and one of the things he showed me was the weight room.
Tech's weight room, which was small and cramped to begin with (remember the films of Druck lifting weights last year, and how the weight room looked like little dungeon?), has been cut nearly in half due to the Merryman Center construction. I remember looking into the tiny weight room and thinking, "There's no way you can fit even a third of the football team in here at once. I wonder how that's going to affect their conditioning and their injuries this year?"
Perhaps it's just a coincidence, or the result of playing on bad Astroturf. In any event, the Merryman Center, with its new training and sports medicine facilities, absolutely cannot be finished soon enough.