Virginia Tech lost its accomplished and popular baseball coach to a 10-time College World Series program Thursday and immediately elevated his top assistant.
Patrick Mason, the Hokies' pitching and recruiting coordinator the past three seasons, replaces Pete Hughes, who resigned to become head coach at Oklahoma. Hughes' last game at Tech was a 10-4 NCAA tournament loss to Oklahoma earlier this month in Blacksburg.
Athletic director Jim Weaver said Hughes emphatically endorsed Mason during a meeting at Weaver's home Wednesday morning.
"If you had heard that," Weaver said at a Thursday news conference, "you would understand why we're sitting here today. … Pat Mason is, in my opinion, the consummate baseball man."
Citing seven recruits committed for 2014 and three for '15, plus Mason's guidance of the pitching staff, associate athletic director Jon Jaudon called the promotion "a no-brainer."
Hughes compiled a 222-174 record in seven years at Tech, and this past season guided the Hokies to a 40-22 mark. They advanced to the championship game of the ACC tournament, losing to North Carolina, and hosted a NCAA regional for the first time.
Weaver said Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione requested permission last Friday to interview Hughes. The school then flew the Hughes family west on country music star Toby Keith's private jet, according to Weaver.
"Unless his family didn't like Norman (Okla.), he was going to (accept the job)," Weaver said.
Hughes earned approximately $157,000 at Tech, less than half of what Oklahoma was paying Sunny Golloway, who recently left for Auburn and a $650,000 salary. But Weaver said Hughes told him not to ask Tech president Charles Steger for more money.
"The bottom line is, there wasn't going to be a bidding war," said Weaver, who awarded Mason a five-year contract worth approximately $185,000 his debut season.
Indeed, Tech can't approach Oklahoma's baseball heritage. The Sooners won the national championship in 1951 and '94 and have reached 36 NCAA tournaments, nine of the past 10.
Golloway, Oklahoma's coach the past nine years, took the Sooners to the 2010 College World Series and to super regionals, baseball's Sweet 16, in 2012 and '13. Tech has never reached a super regional.
Prior to joining Hughes' staff at Tech for the 2011 season, Mason spent five seasons as an assistant at Northeastern, his alma mater. Mason was a catcher for the Huskies from 1994-97.
In 2010, the Hokies' ERA was 4.76. In Mason's three seasons, it's been 4.57, 4.16 and 4.22.
Mason called Hughes "as good a mentor as I could ever imagine" and said that Hughes had empowered him to make decisions and prepared him to run his own program.
"I'm going to (continue) a lot of what Pete established here," Mason said. "We'll continue to chase our goal of getting to Omaha (and the College World Series). … The future has never been brighter for Hokies baseball."
Mason is the sixth consecutive head-coaching hire Weaver has made from within. Of the other five, only women's soccer coach Charles "Chugger" Adair has reached the NCAA tournament.
Asked about the trend, Weaver said, "I will stick by my decisions."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun