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.”
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.”