Kendrick: Changes Need to Be Made

In the wake of Rich Rodriguez’s departure, West Virginia University Athletics Director Ed Pastilong released a statement Wednesday saying he’s happy with the way things are going with the football team’s preparation and his main focus is finding a replacement.

”I’m pleased that Bill Stewart has stepped forward to serve as interim head coach of the WVU football team,” Pastilong said. ”The players, under his direction and the direction of the rest of the football staff, have been having some great practices and will show up for the Fiesta Bowl well prepared.

As for the coaching search, Pastilong said, ”It is a wide-open search with interest and interaction involving candidates, with and without WVU ties.”

Under it all, another battle continues to rage.

In light of Rodriguez’s recent exit — the latest in a rather long line out of the school’s athletic department during the last 12 months — folks like Earl G. ”Ken” Kendrick Jr., part owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and significant financial donor to the university, are demanding accountability for what former employees have termed ”a very, very unappealing work environment.”

To that end, Kendrick cited the recent defections of Rodriguez and basketball coach John Beilein to Michigan; the head of the Mountaineer Athletic Club, Whit Babcock, to Missouri; Sports Information Director Shelly Poe to The Ohio State University; and swimming coach Sergio Lopez after winning the Big East title to a high school program. It’s been reported women’s soccer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown has also interviewed elsewhere.

”That environment is directly related to those (people) leaving,” Kendrick said. ”As of (Wednesday) when I spoke out, I’ve begun to get e-mails from former employees (of the WVU athletic department). They said, ‘Thank you, finally somebody sees our pain.’ “

Calls by The Intelligencer to West Virginia University officials, including Pastilong and President Mike Garrison, weren’t returned. One source indicated it’s unlikely anything that’s happened in the past would be immediately addressed any more than it already has, as Rodriguez’s resignation has taken effect and the university is moving forward in its search.

”One side shouldn’t be the only side the public hears,” Kendrick said. ”If there is more than one side — in this case I think there is — it should be told. I am not embarrassed about shining a light on this area.

”It’s very clear to some of us, there’s a lack of institutional control and good management practices within the athletic department. The institution needs to move forward. Do we want to leave that in the same hands?”

Kendrick, a Princeton native who is a very successful businessman with more than four decades of experience, said there are embedded circumstances that are beyond imagination in terms of how the (athletic department’s) business operates.

”This is a $50 million-a-year business,” he said.

Kendrick claims knowledge of the university’s recent hiring of an outside firm to take a look at some of the practices inside the athletic department.

”They came away with more than 50 recommendations for change in the athletic department,” he said.

To Kendrick’s knowledge, none of those recommendations have been followed.

”That makes no sense to me,” he said. ”It doesn’t even pass the barest minimum test of standard operating practices.”

Here are some of the points it made, according to Kendrick:

There’s no business plan; no tactical plan; the department doesn’t give any reviews of its employees, meaning there’s little opportunity for advancement as he sees it; there are no staff meetings; it doesn’t have a human resources function; it doesn’t do any employee training; and it doesn’t allow employees to go to off-site training facilities.

”They came away with some very, very strong recommendations,” Kendrick said. ”If the university can do anything with something like this, it needs change.

”I’ve been in business for 40 years ranging from technology, banking, manufacturing, and two pro sports teams. They have a lot of same environmental things we’re dealing with. All of those things that I live with every day and we try to do in a businesslike way, they don’t do in a businesslike way.

”It’s an example of a business outrunning its leadership.”

At the forefront is the way WVU administrators handled Rodriguez’s departure to Michigan, Kendrick said.

”It’s beyond sad that this happened because some of us feel like it shouldn’t have happened and didn’t have to happen,” Kendrick said. ”People have to draw whatever conclusions they will. It’s not me alone. Certain things related to Rich’s departure are intended to present this is as somebody you took to the dance and he decided to leave with someone else.”

As the details have come out — and been disputed by both sides — all the way down to a waive of the $5 fee high school football coaches are charged to attend the game, university officials have issued statements claiming they did all they could to retain the coach and that he was looking for a way out.

Not so, said Kendrick.

”Rich was trying to find reasons to stay,” he said. ”There wasn’t any of these issues that Rich would have personally benefited from. Rich wasn’t asking for a penny for himself.”

Kendrick pointed out that Rodriguez, now seen by many fans as someone who chased the money, worked for the university for five years at a ”dramatic discount” to his peers, where he was no better than the fifth-highest paid coach in the Big East Conference prior to having his deal re-worked last December.

”It’s time to quit doing the character assassination that has been going on and let Rich’s legacy be what it should be,” Kendrick said. ”He led the era of football that is the most successful in the history of the university. Don’t make him what he isn’t. Don’t make him the guy that did bad to all of us who loved him and supported him. I don’t feel that’s fair.”

Kendrick, who lives in Arizona, the same state where West Virginia will play in the Fiesta Bowl, said he won’t be attending the game, as he and his family will be skiing in Colorado that week.

Though it’s not as personal as it sounds.

”My family has a standing annual visit to our home in Colorado,” he said. ”We believed we were going to be playing at another game and another place (the BCS National Championship Game, New Orleans a week later). I’ve chosen to keep my family commitments.”

Kendrick has publicly questioned whether or not he’ll move forward with future donations to the school.

”I’m a part owner; I’m a stakeholder because I have been a donor,” he said. ”I’ve been an active contributor in trying to encourage others, but it’s hard for me in good conscience to tell (other potential donors) they’ll be good stewards.”