WVU Battles Accusations of Racial Bias from Rich Rodriguez's Staff

Ryan TCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2008

West Virginia athletic director Ed Pastilong said Sunday there was one reason and one reason only that Calvin Magee never became a serious candidate to succeed Rich Rodriguez as West Virginia’s football coach, and it had nothing to do with race.

It’s because within hours of Rodriguez’s resignation on Dec. 16, Magee was on a plane bound for Michigan with Rodriguez and was introduced the next morning as the Wolverines’ offensive coordinator.

“Yes, I would have considered him if it hadn’t been for that,’’ Pastilong told the Gazette. “But it would be unusual for him to be considered a serious candidate when at Rich’s press conference, Calvin was introduced as the new offensive coordinator at Michigan.’’

Pastilong’s remarks were in reaction to a story in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in which Magee, WVU’s offensive coordinator under Rodriguez, claims that he wasn’t a candidate to replace Rodriguez because he is black.

The most egregious accusation in the Post-Gazette story came not from Magee, but from his agent, Mike Brown, who is also Rodriguez’s agent. Brown claims that in the hours following the news that Rodriguez was leaving, Magee met with an unnamed WVU administrator:

According to Brown, who declined to identify the person involved in this incident, “Calvin was in discussions with this West Virginia University administrator, and Calvin kind of politely asked him, ‘Do you think I have a shot [at becoming the next Mountaineers head coach]?’ The administrator said, ‘No you don’t,’ and pointed to his skin. That’s why Calvin got on the plane.”

Pastilong said if anyone on his staff or within the university said that to Magee it was news to him.

“I think the only person who could speak to that would be that administrator,’’ Pastilong said. “I didn’t see Calvin [that day].’’

Pastilong said he did eventually talk to Magee regarding the head coaching job and Magee admits that much. It happened several days after Rodriguez resigned and during the time that WVU was sifting through and interviewing candidates for the job. Magee said it was Dec. 21, five days after Rodriguez resigned, when he was approached by Pastilong regarding the job.

But Magee said he felt that contact was simply to satisfy pressure from the Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA) to interview minority candidates. Pastilong said he did so with an open mind and with no pressure from the BCA, but that the conversation ended very quickly.

“I was attending meetings of the coaching staff [those who remained to prepare WVU for the Fiesta Bowl game with Oklahoma] and I think it was after one of those meetings about the third day that I asked him to walk back with me,’’ Pastilong said Sunday. “He and I sat down in the team meeting room and I asked him if he was definitely going to Michigan and he said he was. But he said he wanted to stay and coach the bowl game.’’

Pastilong said that when Magee confirmed to him his intent to go to Michigan with Rodriguez, he naturally eliminated him as a serious candidate for the job.

As for any pressure from the BCA to interview minority candidates, Pastilong said he was the one who first initiated contact with BCA executive director Floyd Keith.

“I called Floyd Keith and we had a discussion and it was very early in the process. I think it might have been Monday [Dec. 17, the day after Rodriguez resigned],’’ Pastilong said. “He faxed some names to me and we followed up on some of those. He mentioned Calvin to me and Calvin’s was among the names he faxed to me. But by then Calvin was already on board at Michigan.’’

West Virginia did contact one black candidate about the job, Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. But because Locksley was in California at the time preparing for the Rose Bowl, the two sides never met face to face.

Keith told the Post-Gazette that the BCA will continue to look into West Virginia’s search, which ended the day after the Mountaineers beat Oklahoma and interim coach Bill Stewart was given the job.

“We are going to look into the search,’’ Keith said. “We are going to corroborate what [Magee and Locksley] report. If the evidence is that there were really no interviews and [West Virginia officials] say that there were, then that’s a problem.’’

In the Post-Gazette story, Magee admitted that jumping into the Michigan job so quickly was probably a mistake. He claims he did so in order “to explore my options.’’ He returned the next day to Morgantown and said he quickly grasped that damage was done.

“I immediately felt like I should have stayed away [from Ann Arbor],’’ Magee said.

In the end, Pastilong defended the school’s search.

“We had a good search and we did our very best to include as many people as we could and be as objective as we could,’’ Pastilong said. “And in the end it was clear who the best man for the job was — the one who led us to a 20-point victory over a team a lot of people considered the best in the country.’’