Virginia Tech struck out.
After a very successful 2013 baseball season which saw Virginia Tech making an appearance in the ACC Baseball Tournament and sucessfully hosting the an NCAA Regional and making it to the final, longtime baseball coach Pete Hughes has left the program to become the head coach at Oklahoma.
It is bitterly ironic that one of the teams who beat Virginia Tech in the regional nabbed Pete Hughes. It was widely reported Pete Hughes had been rumored to be in play for the head coaching job at Georgia, only to be nixed when Athletic Director Jim Weaver refused the Bulldogs permission to talk to Hughes. With a year left on his contract, Weaver said he would work in the offseason to extend Hughes' contract.
Apparently, that was all a smokescreen to appease Tech fans. It was reported last Friday, Oklahoma requested permission to speak with Hughes, and it was granted. Within less a week, Hughes is Oklahoma bound.
What did Weaver do? The only thing Weaver does. Promote from within.
Naturally, the fans response was something akin to this:
What exactly does Weaver want? He said he wants to keep the recruiting class intact. Um, that's what he said when he hired coach Johnson to coach the men's basketball program...and the Hokies lost top-rated recruit Montrezl Harrell. First of all, Weaver, don't risk on the future of baseball on the whims of high school kids. Exhibit A, Beamer released three long time assistant coaches, and was able to retain the great 2013 recruiting class. Those are the same assistant coaches who helped recruit those kids.
It appears Weaver is unwilling to invest in the baseball program to the necessary degree to compete with the rest of the ACC. Schools such as Virginia and North Carolina field top-notch teams each year while Tech is lucky to get into the ACC Tournament. Why do Virginia and North Carolina field successfully team consistently? Because their athletic directors invest in them and have given them the financial/facilities commitment needed to succeed. Yet, when Pete Hughes informed Weaver of his decision to take the job at Oklahoma, he said that he didn't want there to be a bidding war. He also told Weaver not to go to the president and offer a package deal for him. Perhaps, Hughes felt he did not get enough support from the administration or the athletic department.
When Washington came after him a few years ago, they offered money VT could not match. He stayed b/c of promises for program upgrades.— Sean Bielawski (@SeanBielawski) June 27, 2013
For Hughes' replacement, Weaver again hired an assistant coach who has zero experience as the head coach. The most recent time was with James Johnson, and now it's Patrick Mason. Pat Mason said all the right things in the press conference, but like him or not, his success or failure is going to directly reflect on Jim Weaver.
Fans are already fed up with Weaver's track record of hiring from within rather than to execute a national search for a new coach. When athletic departments around the country typically promote from within more times than not, it is done out of immediate necessity.
The loss of Pete Hughes cannot be discounted. He publicly stated he loved the place and could not imagine being anywhere else. His actions though spoke completely different. He said if his family did not want to leave, he would have stayed. Meanwhile, one cannot help but feel if Hughes truly loved Blacksburg and his job, he would have worked closely with Weaver to get the raise. It seems only reasons Hughes took the Oklahoma job was for the huge pay raise and better facilities. Which leads back to Weaver again, and raises questions about his commitment to keeping salaries below competing schools in non-revenue sports.
Has Virginia Tech become too football-centric? Yes, the shadow of Hokies' football program casts an enormous shadow over the Olympic sports, yet there have to be fans who are interested in other sports besides football. Perhaps the fans can help drive the success of other Olympic sport programs by showing up and cheering them on. This is not to belittle the fans, but to simulate discussion about whether Weaver's fiscally-motivated practices are prudent or not.
For more on the Virginia Tech baseball program and where they go from here, stay tuned to your best bet for Virginia Tech baseball news, updates and analysis on the internet, here at Gobbler Country.