Whit Babcock Discusses Kevin Dresser’s Departure, Future of Virginia Tech Wrestling

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Whit Babcock Virginia Tech wrestling
Virginia Tech Director finds himself in an interesting position, having to support Virginia Tech wrestling while also searching for a new head coach. (Photos by Ivan Morozov)

Shortly after Virginia Tech officially announced that wrestling coach Kevin Dresser was leaving to take the head coaching job at Iowa State, Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Whit Babcock discussed the situation, as well as the future of Virginia Tech wrestling, with reporters on a Monday afternoon conference call. Here is a transcript from the conference call.

What moves were made to convince Dresser to stay? How much of a raise was Dresser offered?

“I don’t really want to get into the figures and all that, but it was an ongoing conversation with Kevin over the course of about the last two and a half weeks. Certainly, you hate to lose a coach of his caliber, and the timing is admittedly not great, but I just met with the team up there and our focus will be on them and them finishing out the season strong with Coach (Tony) Robie as the interim coach, Coach (Mike) Zadick will move up a notch and Coach (Derek) St. John will move up a notch. We’ll get through ACCs and the NCAAs, and focus on the team. It will be very likely we will announce our new coach after the NCAA Championships.

What was it that made Dresser attached to Iowa State job? Money, chance to go home?

“He referenced to me that it wasn’t a money situation, although I’m very proud of our investment in wrestling, how we’ve funded it and what we’ve done for Kevin and all that. It was really just the talk of being close to his family. He is a builder, he likes to build programs. This was just one of two or three jobs in the country that he would look at. We certainly didn’t go down without trying our best. He just decided he wanted to live and work at Iowa State more than Virginia Tech.”

How was Babcock notified that Dresser was considering Iowa State job?

“Yeah, Kevin first brought it to our attention that Iowa State had an interest in connecting with him and before they did, Jamie Pollard (Iowa State athletic director) reach out to me. I like Jamie and respect him.”

Discussion of Dresser finishing out season as head coach?

“Not much. Kevin and I talked about that up front. I just feel like once you’ve agreed to become somebody else’s coach, you’re their coach. He agreed, and we just felt like there was no way, or that it would be very difficult for Kevin’s 100 percent focus to be on this team once he agreed to become the Iowa State coach. We agreed on that, and we feel like we’re in good hands with Coach Robie and Coach Zadick. I met with them today, and they reaffirmed their commitment to coach their tails off for this team and finish the season strong.”

Will Robie, Zadick or St. John consider joining Dresser at Iowa State?

“I don’t ultimately know. I would hope that wouldn’t happen until after the season. We also referenced in the release that our finalists certainly could be internal or external candidates, but I don’t ultimately know what Kevin is thinking about them, but I would be disappointed and surprised if any of that happened before the end of the season.”

Balancing keeping continuity by hiring internally, or possibility of being attractive to established coaches at successful programs.

“I think they’re both really good thoughts. I’m not being coy with you, this will be a lot different than the football and basketball (hires). If we have internal candidates, I wouldn’t want them to be distracted away from the ACCs or the NCAA Tournament. If we have external candidates, maybe they’re in the NCAA Tournament. We’ve got a month here. We’ll move quickly, but we won’t rush. But yeah, both of those schools of thought make sense.”

Is Virginia Tech in a good spot when it comes to wanting external candidates due to recent success of program?

“I wouldn’t use the term ‘catbird seat’, but I know what you mean. Virginia Tech sells itself, and the fact that we’re an elite program… I would like to say a couple things. Our commitment to wrestling with be just as strong, if not stronger, and we will focus on winning ACC Championships, and the goal of winning a national championship has not changed a bit. I’m disappointed, but I also want everybody to know that I think very highly of Kevin Dresser and I understand why he did it. It wasn’t that anybody was wrong. He just wanted to go back home and take on a new challenge.”

Kevin Dresser Virginia Tech wrestling
Kevin Dresser has officially accepted the head coach position at Iowa State, leaving questions about the future of Virginia Tech wrestling.

How would Babcock handle situation where one or multiple wrestlers wanted to transfer to Iowa State with Dresser?

“I don’t know yet. I’ve heard those stories (about former Tech wrestlers transferring to Iowa with Tom Brands), I don’t feel like that will happen, but we’ve really only had a day right now. I don’t know that I have an answer for that. Ultimately, I don’t think you can stop kids from going, but we would always say, ‘We would prefer that you wait and see who the next head coach is going to be.’ I got the sense from this team that their resolve is pretty strong. We have some great leaders on there, and this may galvanize them even more and bring those guys together. I’m not too concerned about it. I don’t want to have my head in the sand, but I’m not too concerned about that.”

Difficulty in competing in smaller sports due to so much money being tied up with Buzz Williams and Justin Fuente.

“I hope not. While Kevin got a heck of a deal at Iowa State, and I’m sure that will come out in due time, what we were really pleased about with our wrestling program is this year, Kevin was the highest-paid coach in the ACC. We have the highest wrestling budget in the ACC, the highest assistant coaches pool budget in the ACC and I believe Kevin, at salary of $150,000 and a retention bonus of $75,000 this June, that would have been $225,000 and I believe that is in the top-5 or top-6 of public schools in the country. I feel like our commitment is really strong and right now, wrestling is the only coach or high-level administrator we have that’s the highest-paid in the ACC. Our commitment is there. We could certainly do more, but Iowa State came in pretty strong and Kevin and I had an honest conversation about that.”

Chances of next coach being paid at similar level to Dresser?

“No idea. It depends on their pedigree and their experience and all those things. It’s way too early to tell. Again, this will be a slower, or more time-consuming, search. We’ve got a heck of a team and I’d like to really focus on them here in the ACCs and the NCAAs. This will take a while.”

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17 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I hope VT can continue what Dresser started, Dresser can improve Iowa St & both VT & Iowa St. kick Brands team’s arses all over the mat.

  2. If I hear one more time that the timing is “not great”, I’m gonna retch. The timing sucks, plain and simple. Just come out and say it. I understand why it has to be so, and I don’t begrudge KD or ISU for the timing, but please stop trying to shine the turd. It is what it is and the timing is awful.

    1. Isn’t that what he said? He is a CEO and doesn’t have the luxury of “spouting off” and saying what he wants all the time like if he were a poster on an anonymous message board…

      I think his feelings on the subject came through loud and clear, even if diplomatically! It sucks, but it isn’t the first time and probably won’t be the last…Coaches area vagabond lot!

      1. I think it’s Whit and Dresser both mean, but won’t say. The timing is much worse than “not great”. It’s pretty awful. I know it’s an overraction on my part, but it just really gets under my skin hearing them both repeat the same line about the timing being “not great”. They sound too much like politicians that way. The timing is awful, but couldn’t be avoided. I think we all understand that fact and the reasons for it. Is it too much to ask for those in charge to just speak more frankly from time to time?

  3. despite being saddened by Coach Dresser’s departure, i think we should all thank him for the incredible job he did for Virginia Tech.
    i remember that he stepped “up to the mat” when we were in an awful predicament because of the Brands debacle. the cheap rat jumped our ship and tried to mutiny the crew on the way out.
    talk about a turn-around!
    and we ended up with one of the best: dedicated, knowledgable, program-developer, recruiter, friendly, and a leader. helped us completely reverse the course of our wrestling program from a “so-so” to a budding national power. and he hates oranges.

    thanks Coach! much success to you – except when you wrestle the Hokies!

    Go Hokies! win the the ACC. qualify the entire team for nationals; and win the NCAA.

    1. This situation sucks. The timing sucks. But I blame Iowa State for that.

      In the end, I agree that we owe Kevin Dresser a huge Thank You. He built VT wrestling from a dumpster fire into a national contender and has always been a class act … even when leaving. He looked as emotionally pained over this past weekend as anyone. He will be missed, but he left the program in tremendous shape.

    2. At this point in time, I agree with all the thanks and respect being shown towards former Coach Dresser. However, it’s pretty early in the process of his transition. If he happens to lure one or more of his assistants away from VT; and/or a few current VT undergraduate wrestlers; and/or a few promising VT recruits; then my opinion of him will shift quite a bit – as should yours. Dresser chose his new bed. Now he needs to go sleep in it.

  4. I can appreciate the coach wanting to return home. I wish him well. He really did great for Tech! I just don’t understand why everyone cannot wait until after the season. Their may be a disadvantage to doing so, but that is just the price one pays. Is there anything wrong with the NCAA putting in a rule that prevents coaches from changing teams in mid/late season? Or, how about an ‘open season’ for coaches to transfer or announce their transfer. Then again, for new recruits sake, maybe it’s best to just get it over with as soon as they know it. It just seems unfair to the team they leave at this point in the season.

    1. It’s definitely disheartening to VT, but ISU is pretty happy about it. They have already released a ton of marketing material highlighting CKD’s impending arrival.

      While Whit was waiting until after the UVa game to announce, CJF was hired basically before the end of the season. That set off a chain of coaching hiring at other schools, as will this move.

    2. Didn’t Whit nix him staying on. I would love to see VT win NC and be able to say to coach, see what you missed.

    3. Sounded like Iowa State was in a bind..they had recruits abandoning ship and needed a splash hire to salvage them and not slip further into irrelevancy. At least, that was my understanding reading the stuff. We were just the odd man out!

  5. I believe Kevin will treat Tech with respect. He’s a straight shooter as are the guys on the present staff.
    As with Witt, I’m also disappointed but in Kevin’s shoes, I’d probably do the same thing he’s doing. Which of us wrestling fans ever thought we’d reach the level that we have? I hoped it could happen but doubted that it could. We had good wrestling teams in the 50’s but not this caliber.

  6. Robie appears to be qualified to take over. I like that he’s an east coast guy with east coast wrestling connections. Zadick is from Montana and wrestled at Iowa. St. John is also an Iowa grad. If Robie is hired, I hope the staff remains intact. I have a feeling that Kevin would love to bring Robie to Ames because of his eastern ties. It’ll be interesting to see who Babcock hires. If it isn’t one of our present assistants, I have a feeling our next coach will have east coast roots.

    1. Robie wants this job and should get it, and with any luck, we keep Zadick and St. John. All are very well liked and respected by the wrestlers.

      If Robie doesn’t get the job full time, expect to see him as a HC elsewhere. He’s been on many short lists. I really hope that doesn’t happen.

  7. There really doesn’t appear to be anything hidden here. A good coach going home with a great opportunity that came at a bad time. If he treats VT well, I cannot but wish him well.

    1. I think Whit alluded that the compensation was much greater than VT could offer at this point- and that’s okay. As he said, VT’s the best opportunity in the ACC.

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