WVU quarterback Patrick White, a Heisman Trophy front-runner, is known as a soft-spoken man who, early in his time at WVU, was a tough interview, thanks to his shy, one-word answers and refusal to fill awkward silences with glib chatter.
In the past year, he's become more confident and accumulated a great deal of political capital and clout because of his on-field exploits (29-4 as a starter) and off-field, straight-arrow, good-student demeanor.
In short, when he talks, people listen.
When he accepted the Fiesta Bowl trophy for offensive MVP in January, he told the Fox audience, "I think I speak for everyone on the team when I say Coach Stewart should be our next coach."
He essentially backed the WVU administration into a corner. Their star player, after engineering a big upset and leading a shell-shocked team to victory, had thrown his support behind the interim coach in a very public fashion. What else was WVU to do?
At the Big East media day in Newport, Rhode Island, something White said may end up costing another WVU coach his job—baseball coach Greg Van Zant.
White has been drafted multiple times by Major League Baseball teams. He was even urged to play for Van Zant's team in the offseason by Stewart, but declined. Now, we may know why. When asked about playing baseball at WVU, here's what White said on Tuesday:
"In my knowledge of West Virginia baseball, there's not been many players of my race on his team," White said. "Van Zant is "not too high on it."
White went on to say, "Every player I've talked to doesn't like him. He's not a well-liked coach, but I guess he has tenure so they never got rid of him. They're not successful at all."
Wow. Say, where's coach Van Zant? Oh, he's over there, under that bus.
Some facts: Van Zant has 413 victories in 15 seasons (a .545 percentage), but no NCAA tournament appearances since 1996. All 34 players on WVU's baseball squad last year are white; 11 from West Virginia, which is 97 percent white.
The percentage of black players in the big leagues has been slipping for years as young black athletes have moved to football and basketball. Latino players now make up the largest minority in the big leagues.
Further—and this is purely a guess—it seems logical to me that college baseball would be the province of white players. Very talented Latino players, many of whom speak no English, generally go straight to the minor leagues and never to college.
All that being said, it's important to note that White said he's done his research. He said he's talked to Van Zant's players. This is not just Pat White looking at a photo of the 2008 baseball team, seeing nothing but white faces and inferring that Van Zant is a racist.
There has been no comment from WVU yet other than a boilerplate response from athletic director Ed Pastilong about the school's commitment to diversity. That sound you're hearing from Morgantown right now is Pastilong's head exploding.
White's comments place Van Zant on a very, very hot seat. Frankly, I would be surprised if he's still coaching the baseball team next season. I could very easily see a "resignation" managed by the university in which Van Zant is thanked for his years of service and ushered out.
WVU knows there's no gain in siding against its biggest athletic moneymaker and best hope for a football national championship—Pat White.
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