"Dream" Weaver Makes a Comeback
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 8/1/01

After a fall of 2000 that is best described as "uncomfortable," Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Jim Weaver has slowly but surely worked himself back into the good graces of many Tech fans.

From August to November of 2000, controversy dogged Weaver. From Derrius Monroe to the canceled BCA game to Coach Beamer's near departure to UNC, Weaver made a series of moves and issued a series of quotes that resulted in him being raked over the coals for various reasons by many Virginia Tech sports fans, and even this columnist.

It's no stretch to say that Weaver was not a popular man in Blacksburg late last year, particularly after Frank Beamer almost escaped to UNC. That was just the last in a series of unpopular decisions and missteps by Weaver that drew the ire of many Hokie fans. To wit:

August 2000: After Tech defensive end Derrius Monroe pled guilty to a felony charge of cocaine possession (see News and Notes for August 9, 2000), Weaver reinstated him to the team for practices, apparently in violation of Tech's Comprehensive Action Plan governing student-athlete behavior. Weaver defended his decision by saying that Monroe's case fell under the category of being "dropped, dismissed, or otherwise resolved," allowing him to rejoin the team (see Hokie Hotline Notes for August 21, 2000 for Weaver's comments on the Monroe case).

The terms of Monroe's guilty plea included dropping any record of the charge after a two year probation period, which is why Weaver categorized Monroe's case as "otherwise resolved." Weaver's decision was met with outrage by Tech fans who didn't like the idea of having a player on the team who had pled guilty to a felony.

Late August/early September 2000: when the BCA Game with Georgia Tech was canceled by lightning, Weaver issued a series of contradictory statements to the press about Virginia Tech's willingness to reschedule the game in early December. Weaver went from saying that Virginia Tech was willing to reschedule the game and was willing to meet a different opponent (after GT backed out) to saying, "To extend our season an additional week for a contest that will now expose our student athletes and fans to an entirely new set of unknown circumstances is not in the best interest of the Virginia Tech football program and this university," as he announced that the game would not be rescheduled.

Many Hokie followers and fans, including this columnist, felt that Weaver's statements and actions regarding the ill-fated BCA game were contradictory and hid the real reasons for not re-scheduling the game, whatever they may have been.

November 2000: In a near disaster for Virginia Tech's football team, Coach Frank Beamer almost left Virginia Tech for UNC. He decided at literally the last moment to stay at Tech, and a majority of Hokie fans placed the blame for the near-catastrophe squarely on Weaver's shoulders. In comments to the press, Weaver likened the negotiations with Beamer to a game of poker, irritating Hokie followers who thought he was playing too fast and loose with the program's future.

Weaver was at the center of all three of those storms, and by early December of 2000, his name was mud with a large number of Hokie fans and supporters. The Beamer-to-UNC saga was widely perceived as a power play between the two men, a struggle that Weaver had lost. Speculation was rampant that Weaver would not remain at Tech much longer, either because he might be removed, or because he would go elsewhere of his own volition.

Eight months later, however, Weaver is still very much entrenched, and he continues to work hard at improving Virginia Tech athletics. He does not exhibit the characteristics of a man who is either looking over his shoulder or over the fence at greener pastures. He very much has the look of an athletic director who wants to stay at Tech for the long haul.

After last year's events, there were two ways that Weaver could improve his diminished stock with Hokie fans: (1) lie low; and (2) make some crowd-pleasing moves. He has done both.

After appearing on nearly every Hokie Hotline radio show during the 2000 football season, Weaver disappeared from the program shortly after the Beamer-to-UNC events. Weaver appeared on the Hotline the night Beamer agreed to stay at Tech (November 27th), and again the following week (December 4th), but after that, he removed himself from the radio show.

He kept a low profile at Tech's Gator Bowl game and was a no-show at the Spring Football Game in April, in stark contrast to two years ago, when he and Beamer leaned up against the South end zone goal post together and watched Michael Vick play in his first Spring Game.

In general, Weaver has stayed out of the limelight since November of 2000, a move that is either intentional or just coincidental. It gives him the image of working hard behind the scenes while his coaches and players take center stage. It will be interesting to see if Weaver steps back into the spotlight with his own segment on the Hokie Hotline (as he did last year) when football season starts.

Step two was to make some crowd-pleasing moves, and again, Weaver has done nicely in that area. Lane Stadium expansion is moving ahead, still on course to finish the South end zone expansion in time for the 2002 football season opener. This is no mean feat, considering that a budget impasse in the state legislature threw state approval of the expansion into legislative limbo and threatened to push it off until 2003.

Stadium expansion is complex, and it's hard to say how much of a role Weaver has had in keeping it on course. But since he would take a lot of the blame if the expansion wasn't on course, he certainly deserves a lot of the credit for keeping it on schedule so far.

But where Weaver has really rung up points is with the addition of LSU to Tech's 2002 and 2004 football schedules, and to a lesser degree, with the addition of N.C. State for 2005 and 2006 (as detailed in News and Notes for July 20, 2001). Long a point of suffering for Tech football fans, the criticism of the Hokies' out of conference schedule will end after 2001.

By scheduling LSU for August 31st, 2002, Weaver has fashioned a dream football game wherein the Hokies will have a first time matchup with a compelling out-of-conference opponent, at home, on the day that they break in their 11,000-seat South end zone expansion. Hokie fans couldn't ask for a better opponent on a momentous occasion. Yes, Notre Dame would have been nice, but this is one gift horse that won't be looked at in the mouth.

As the LSU and N.C. State deals were finalized, Weaver earned additional style points with some uncharacteristically frank and honest quotes in a July 11th Roanoke Times article titled Weaver defends schedule by looking ahead. For a man who usually speaks very guardedly to the media, often couching what he says in vague, uncertain terms, his frank discussion of Tech's 2001 football schedule and the difficulties of scheduling good opponents was refreshing.

And in the long run, Weaver may get some vindication from the powder-keg issue of Derrius Monroe. When Monroe was kept on the team last fall, Weaver cited the 31 hours that the formal partial-qualifier needed in order to graduate as one of his reasons for keeping him involved with Virginia Tech football. If Monroe graduates from Tech, not only will Weaver's decision not have been for naught in that regard, but Tech's football player graduation rates, which need all the help they can get, will get an incremental boost. Yes, Monroe could have stayed in school and gotten his degree even if he had been dismissed from the team, but kicking him off the team permanently might have given him that shove to leave Virginia Tech.

Weaver has shown himself to be a man who makes calculated business decisions, often carrying them out ruthlessly, execution-style. Just ask former Tech basketball coach Bobby Hussey, who called Weaver's firing of him "very cold" in a Roanoke Times interview the day Ricky Stokes was hired. Burned in the past by information leaks, Weaver plays things close to the vest and keeps his thoughts to himself, which tends to alienate fans.

So he's never going to be the type of guy who will give Hokie fans a warm, fuzzy feeling. He makes most, perhaps all, of his decisions based on the financial bottom line. But these days, a conversation about Weaver is much less likely to bring up the vitriol and bile that it would have in late 2000. Even Tech fans who ripped him fervently back then have become less vocal of late.

What will happen from here on out? Who knows? Despite Beamer's near departure for UNC, and the harsh blow that would have dealt Tech's prized football program, there never was and currently isn't a movement afoot in the VT administration to remove Weaver from his position. Tech's top administrators appear to support him fully.

The 56-year old Weaver may leave for another job tomorrow. He may stay until the stadium expansion is finished, and then bolt. Or he may finish a long and prosperous career in Blacksburg. As he does with most things, Weaver keeps that information to himself, and no one knows what his plans are.

But one thing is for sure. The heat that was so prevalent on him last fall has died down considerably. If Jim Weaver continues to move the Tech athletic programs forward, as he has always done, and do it without controversy, this year's football season will be more enjoyable than last year's was, at least when it comes to off-the-field matters.

Jim Weaver, who once carried the label "Dream" Weaver with Tech fans, may not be ready to ride again just yet. But he's at least preparing to hoist himself up in the saddle.

Will Stewart is the founder and General Manager of TechSideline.com.  He writes the News and Notes section, game previews, and game reports for TSL, writes and edits for the TSL Extra, and generally runs the place with his prodigious and productive brain.


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