Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

MICKEY FURFARI

January 31, 2014

Dr. Gee talks about his philosophy on college athletics

MORGANTOWN — Dr. Gordon Gee, West Virginia University’s interim president, had some interesting observations about intercollegiate athletics on Tuesday in his office.

First of all, he confirmed that when he first reported to Ohio State as president some time ago he was asked if he came to fire the school’s head football coach.

“No,” Gee said in response. “I just hope he doesn’t fire me.” He readily admitted on Tuesday that “Sometimes my sense of humor isn’t taken very well.”

Dr. Gee disbanded the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics while president at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. He admittedly has no regrets.

“I think that was the right thing to do,” he told me. “The athletic department should be embedded in the totality of the university. Athletics should not be separated from the rest of the university.

“They should be very much a part of the university, so it represents the best of what the university is about.”

Gee sounded pleased that Vanderbilt has fared very well in major football and basketball since then.

Obviously, they’re the chief revenue-producing sports at most institutions.

“What I believe is it’s not so much the organizational structure (in college sports) but in the philosophy that athletics is part of the academic community, said Gee, who also was WVU president in the early 1980s.

“Not separated and not isolated from the academic community. So it’s not so much about whether the structure is embedded; it is about whether the philosophy is greater.”

Dr. Gee said he’s delighted to be back working in Morgantown. He has been taking time to attend some WVU athletic events at the Coliseum.

In an e-mail message from spokeswoman Becky Lofstead on Wednesday evening, President Gee commented on the dismissal of Mike Parsons as deputy athletic director:

“Mike Parsons was of great service to me during my first tenure at West Virginia university, and has given many years of dedicated service to this institution. I sincerely appreciate his commitment to our University. I wish nothing but the best for Mike and his family.”

• • •

Ex-WVU star sets best time in Half-Marathon

You may recall a column here in some time ago about Clara Grandt Santucci, a three-time All-America women’s distance runner at West Virginia University.

Well, she’s still going strong on the marathon circuit as a world-class performer. Clara’s most recent achievement came on Jan. 19 in the USA Half Marathon Championships at Houston, Tex.

She finished in fifth place among all female runners. And her time of 1:12:58 was an all-time career best.

“Clara just seems to get better and better,” reported Jack Brautigam, vice-president of the Morgantown Health Works, where Santucci is employed.

She works as an aquatic life guard. She and her husband have a home in nearby Mt. Morris, Pa.

The Health Works officials allow her time to compete in such world-class events as the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon.

Obviously, the WVU graduate is a wonderful ambassador of good will for the State of West Virginia.

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MICKEY FURFARI