Success, integrity, courage mark Weaver's Virginia Tech legacy

Beamer on what Weaver has meant to Tech's athletic programs over the last 16 years

The morning after found Jim Weaver at peace and reflective, more convinced than ever of his life-altering decision, and moved by others' response.

Weaver announced Tuesday that he is retiring as Virginia Tech's athletic director. His tenure was remarkable for its durability — 16 years is the second-longest in school history — and sweeping achievements.

What most will never fully understand is how much the 68-year-old Weaver wanted to forge on.

The job "was a labor of love for Traci, Craig and I," he said from his home Wednesday.


Get the Baltimore Football app for iPhone and Android

Traci is Weaver's wife, and Craig is their 13-year-old son. They are a team in every regard, in large measure because of the declining health that chop-blocked Weaver into retirement.

Diagnosed in 2004 with Parkinson's disease, Weaver has since endured back and hip ailments that exacerbate his Parkinson's tremors. The result is searing pain that even this former Penn State linebacker can't mask.

Combine those family challenges with professional accomplishments and you get the outpouring of affection that greeted Weaver when he informed staff Tuesday afternoon of his departure.

"It was an emotional thing," Weaver said. "It was a personal thing within our group. It was overwhelming and it was something I was pleased to be a part of."

Tech president Charles Steger attended the meeting and introduced Weaver. After making brief remarks, Weaver returned to his chair and cried.

"Jim has been able to elevate the program really in all dimensions," Steger said, citing fiscal stability, outstanding graduation rates, ACC championships and facility upgrades. "He's also been able to set a value framework for all of our sports in terms of student performance and behavior."

Indeed, while much of the past 24 hours have been spent chronicling the Hokies' measurable gains under Weaver, and rightfully so, the intangibles are an equally important calculation.

Weaver considers the department extended family and fostered that notion among staff. He has no tolerance for NCAA rules violations and jettisoned the one coach, Oliver Weiss in men's soccer, who ran afoul.

Ever-transparent, Weaver was accessible to media, donors and fans, even after contentious decisions such as declining a Thursday night home football game this season. And proving his leadership chops, he publicly and privately advocated policy made by his superiors, despite inevitable disagreements.

"As I came into the (ACC), he was one of the folks I looked up to as a mentor in understanding how the league worked," Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said. "Virginia Tech is where it is today because of the great decisions Jim made and the vision and foresight that he had. We're going to miss him in our group. … He's meant the world to a number of us."

"When I left there, I didn't think anybody could do any better than we did," said Weaver's predecessor, Dave Braine. "But he obviously has."

Weaver's tenure included the 2007 campus shootings and he, along with coaches such as football's Frank Beamer, softball's Scot Thomas and baseball's Pete Hughes (now at Oklahoma), embraced athletics' role in the community's healing.

"Jim has been a pillar for Virginia Tech," Radakovich said. "For all that's occurred there, from the triumphs to tragedies, he's been a rock."

Weaver and I met in his office shortly after his 1997 arrival in Blacksburg, and I've respected him since. We've disagreed — I recall a spirited press box debate over what I considered his tame disciplining of a football player ¬— but always politely.

Most memorable, Weaver granted me access to his family — wife, son, sisters — after revealing his Parkinson's in 2006. Observing and chronicling their mutual love was a privilege.

As Weaver's condition inevitably declined, we talked about more personal matters. When I became a first-time dad at age 52 — Weaver was 55 when Craig, his first, was born — no one outside my family was happier.

"How's the little one?" he always asks.

"How's Craig and his baseball team?" I always reply.

Weaver's contract ran through 2015, but it's been clear for some time that he'd need to exit early. And that's sad, for he remains sharp of mind and is energized about the intertwined futures of Virginia Tech, the ACC and college football.

The son of a football coach and a former assistant to Joe Paterno at Penn State, Weaver would have been an ideal candidate for the new College Football Playoff selection committee. Alas, his health precluded such consideration.

But there is no lament in Weaver. He is determined to have his hips replaced, tackle yet more rehab and remain a fixture at Hokies events with Traci and Craig.

"We're not going anywhere," Weaver said. "We're going to live here in Blacksburg. We're Hokies first and Nittany Lions second."

Good for Weaver, good for Blacksburg, good for Virginia Tech. The Hokies' next athletic director would be wise to find counsel and inspiration in Weaver.

Earlier this season, Weaver was nominated for the Football Writers Association of America's Courage Award. I can not imagine anyone more deserving.

David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/ teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP

PHOTO GALLERIES