The Times West Virginian


June 9, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN: Informed sources say major reason given for coach firing unjustified

MORGANTOWN — A Freedom of Information Act request from this sports columnist for specified public documents from West Virginia University has yet to be fulfilled.

The institution’s legal representative has only five business days in which to provide the requested 20 years of academic annual averages for WVU’s wrestling program.

Those are required by the NCAA each year. But to date, I have received just a total of six — three at first and then another three. The request was submitted on April 14, and two days later the University acknowledged receipt.

I’m now told by another source with knowledge that a school is required to preserve those documents for only a total of seven years. Even so, it’s the firm belief herein that WVU remains in violation of FOIA compliance in this matter.

Be that as it may, I’ve done some investigative work on my own. In that, greatly reliable sources with longtime knowledge of these issues involved have provided me with some very interesting facts.

So I no longer need those 20 years of reports. Those sources’ valued information is most satisfying.

My only regret is that the university propaganda distribution (obviously with approval) emailed wide to discredit this sports reporting veteran of 70 years on the WVU sports reporting beat.

This issue stemmed from the highly questionable firing of longtime and popular WVU wrestling coach Craig Turnbull by Athletic Director Oliver Luck.

I was told by a source (who should know) that a major reason Luck gave for dismissal of Turnbull was that “he doesn’t graduate his student athletes.”

Well, another source close to the wrestling program retorted that in Turnbull’s last four meetings with Luck, the A.D. never so much as mentioned “academics” as a problem.

Doesn’t that raise a serious question as to who’s really telling the truth?

If WVU had provided 20 years of requested public numbers to a guy who’s legally blind (and hard of hearing), he could have turned to a capable, knowledgeable friend who could help me analyze those figures fairly over a long period of time.

But that wasn’t to be. I assumed those four years were hand-picked of poorer averages.

Two other sources, with many years of knowledge, have confirmed that wrestling wasn’t always among the lowest of WVU’s 17 sports in academic averages.

Whenever Turnbull’s team academic averages for a year were shaky, those sources noted that his numbers showed steady improvement.

“I can assure you that there were other sports with lower academic averages than wrestling,” one of those informants declared.

So readers of this column can judge for themselves — if possible — how much justification Luck really had in firing Coach Turnbull.

You may recall that the veteran mentor, who’s only 61, asked Luck to grant him one more year and he would retire gracefully. However, he was deprived of that opportunity.

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