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Weaving A Legacy

The surprising announcement this afternoon regarding longtime Virginia Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver stepping down next month due to health concerns has given me some thoughts on the matter. Below, I give my take about Weaver's legacy at Virginia Tech.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

My reaction when I first saw the tweet about Jim Weaver's retirement was one of ecstasy. It is somewhat an open secret I have held him in contempt. If you have not seen my observations on the Greenberg firing fiasco or losing Pete Hughes to Oklahoma, I suggest you take a look.

That said, I do have to admit, begrudgingly, that under Weaver, Virginia Tech's athletic department is probably within the smallest minority of university departments which operate in the black, while so many athletic departments are floundering or drowning in the red (cough, Maryland, cough). As it has been long known, Weaver has had his hands in overseeing the transition of Virginia Tech from the Atlantic-10 to the fabled Big East and to the steady home of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

In addition, he has helped to oversee several renovation projects, the West Side Expansion of Lane Stadium, the South End Zone, the improvement to other sport complexes, helping to secure the funding to upgrade the massive new scoreboard and Cassel's scoreboard, and finally, probably his biggest pet project, navigating the controversy of the Indoor Practice Facility for the football program.

For Weaver to be able to have those capital projects done without giving the university extra burden is quite an accomplishment. It is to be commended.

However, while those are certainly glowing, his biggest blemish in my opinion was the handling of Seth Greenberg firing. As I talked about in my piece above, I found the way Weaver handled it with cold calculation and without regard, it was baffling. Unfortunately for Weaver, that is going to be a part of his legacy for a good while. While Greenberg caused some dissension throughout HokieNation, there is no doubt that he was heck of a coach who went toe-to-toe with the best in coaches, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and Roy Williams of North Carolina, besting them on several occasions.

It is not a complete surprise that eventually Weaver's tolerance of Greenberg's abrasive personality wore off and the increasing call from impatient fans have led to his ousting. Weaver's press conference, where he basically told the world that Greenberg was fired without giving the coach so much as a day's notice, was unacceptable.

Then, there was the departure of popular baseball coach, Pete Hughes, for Oklahoma once Virginia Tech was knocked out of the Blacksburg Regional of the NCAA Baseball Tournament. According to reports, Hughes basically told Weaver not to bother trying to come up with a package to secure his services.

It is also known Weaver have the tendency to hire coaches on the cheap, see the women's basketball program, or the promotion of pitching coach Patrick Mason to the head coaching position within the baseball program, and the brief coaching search to replace Greenberg, which have not sat well with some in the fan base.

I will grant him this: I have no idea how much pressure Weaver is under due to managing a massive department and a huge coffer of private donations to support the many sport programs at Virginia Tech. Running the athletic department on a day-by-day basis is more than just a full-time job. It is a way of life. For that, I do not envy the eventual successor to Weaver.

Just as head coaches under the microscope, the athletic director will rise and fall with the success of high profile coaches, be it in football, basketball, baseball, or soccer. Often, the success of the athletic department seems to be directly proportionate to the success of high-profile sports. It may seem to be unfair, but that is, unfortunately, the current reality of the multi-million dollar enterprise that is college sports.

Yes, I say enterprise, because when one stops to consider it, the way the athletic director runs the department is very much like being a CEO of a small business. Not only does Weaver have to answer to the university president, he is also responsible to influential boosters, of whose money and clout help steer the success of the sports, and making sure that those people are happy.

Because when those people are not happy, his job is in jeopardy. One example of this situation which arose was when it was announced the sellout streak at Lane Stadium was coming to an end before the kick off occurred against Western Carolina. Part of the reason, was privately, and somewhat publicly, certain booster groups were not happy with how Weaver has handled the scheduling and dealing with some sport figures.

His public battle against Parkinson's Disease is notable. I have no idea how much pain he endures working everyday to manage the department, but I would not wish that upon anybody. It is admirable and courageous that he wanted to see his tenure end on his own terms. Unfortunately, the disease had other plans, and because of it, he has to step down.

Mr. Weaver, from the staff of Gobbler Country, you may have helped raise the profile of Virginia Tech with renovations and steady hands in managing the department through some tough, controversial decisions. We wish you the best in your retirement. May you enjoy it in peace. You certainly will not be forgotten. Your legacy is in the stones that helped build the sport complexes to where they are today at Virginia Tech. Godspeed, Mr. Weaver.