Magee says he wanted to stay at West Virginia but wasn't taken seriously because he is black
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One month later, Calvin Magee's emotions remain jumbled.
He still feels angered because of a Dec. 21 request by the West Virginia athletic director that he become a meaningless minority candidate. That, Magee said, was apparently so administrators could mollify the Black Coaches association director who hours earlier inquired why the Mountaineers hadn't interviewed any minority members, such as him.
He still feels mistreated because someone from the university's Legal Counsel came to his Puskar Center door Dec. 19 and, wielding a warrant-like letter, confiscated his cell phone and West Virginia office materials.
He still feels upset that his seven years of West Virginia service seemingly amounted to little in the end, when, he said, he was never asked to remain as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator.
He still feels gratified by West Virginia fans who, as he put it, were the only adults who asked him to stay.
He still feels affection for the Mountaineers left behind: "I do wish the boys, the players, a lot of success."
It's just that he feels differently about invoking that nickname and the meaning supposedly implicit in it.
"For seven years I was told that once you're a Mountaineer, you're always a Mountaineer," said Magee, a Wolverine now after resigning Jan. 4 to become Rich Rodriguez's associate head coach and offensive coordinator at Michigan. "I bought into that. But I found out ... that isn't true."
He understands that some people, especially those who harbor resentment for all things Rodriguez, will consider his viewpoint jaundiced because he is so aligned with the new Michigan coach. Magee doesn't back down from his support for and gratitude to Rodriguez. Yet he feels stereotyped as a minority coach -- "racial discrimination and harassment" was how his and Rodriguez's agent, Mike Brown, described West Virginia's handling of Magee in the end -- and thereby disappointment about West Virginia administrators and for other qualified potential coaching candidates who happen to be a minority.
After all, he was just named the American Football Coaches Association's assistant of the year. Yet he couldn't on merit land either a head-coaching interview or an offer to remain offensive coordinator at WVU?
Perhaps that remains the most jangled emotion of all: an unsettled feeling from unanswered questions.
"It was just the end that was sour," Magee said this past week by phone from Ann Arbor, Mich. "And I don't want anybody to think I was offered the job there or was considered for the job there when that never happened. Never."
The end began on Monday, Dec. 17, when he boarded a plane with Rodriguez, secondary coach Tony Gibson and their families for Rodriguez's introductory news conference at Michigan.
According to Brown, who declined to identify the person involved in this incident, "Calvin was in discussions with this West Virginia University administrator, and Calvin kind of politely asked him, 'Do you think I have a shot [at becoming the next Mountaineers head coach]?' The administrator said, 'No you don't,' and pointed to his skin. That's why Calvin got on the plane."
Magee said he told interim coach Bill Stewart his reasons for attending -- for one thing, "to explore my options." He returned the next day to Morgantown, but he quickly grasped that damage was done.
"I immediately felt like I should have stayed away" from Ann Arbor, said Magee. Mountaineers officials "were kind enough to let me coach the bowl game. But I had not officially resigned from West Virginia University. I was coming back to work.
"Two days later [Dec. 19], I got my phone confiscated from me and was told not to make any recruiting calls. So immediately after seven years of service, I thought, 'Why are they doing this to me?' On their behalf, I got an apology the next day [from Athletic Director Ed Pastilong] and given all the stuff back."
That same Dec. 19, executive director Floyd Keith of the Black Coaches and Administrators asked Pastilong over the phone if minority candidates would be interviewed. He suggested names, including Magee. Everybody assumed that it was a done deal for him to follow Rodriguez to Michigan, added Magee. "Nobody talked to me. Until Floyd Keith called."
Pastilong, through a spokesman Friday, disputed Magee's recollection of some of these events. For one, Pastilong said, they had a private conversation after a Mountaineers coaches meeting that week and in it Magee "confirmed to me it was his intention to go to Michigan. ... Calvin [also] indicated to me that he would have liked to have been considered for the head coach's job at WVU. I told him that would be difficult to entertain since he was already committed to go to Michigan." Moreover, Pastilong said Keith sent him a letter regarding minority interviewees and, in response on Dec. 19.
And Pastilong disputed Magee's memory of their discussion about an interview.
Magee on Friday stood by his account, adding "When you're going through the situation I was going through that week, you remember everything."
As Magee remembered it Pastilong came to his door Dec. 21. "I actually thought this was the call, 'Hey, they're actually going to talk to me,'" Magee recalled.
As Magee relates the conversation, Pastilong started to talk about how the Black Coaches director asked him why no minority candidates were being interviewed.
"I told him, 'I wondered the same thing.' ... [Pastilong] said, 'At this point, I wouldn't want you do to anything that wouldn't mean much.'
"And I told Eddie, 'At this point, Eddie, you're right, I don't want to be part of a meaningless interview.' Because he let me know that's what it would be.
"I told him not to insult me or embarrass me. And I told him that [now] it was my every intention to go to Michigan. It felt like they were trying to appease the BCA."
"That would be bad," Keith said last week when told of Magee's recollection of the conversation. "I don't know whether there was an intent to interview Calvin or not, but that's who we mentioned."
Roughly a week after Magee was approached, consultant Chuck Neinas got Mountaineers administrators in a telephone discussion with Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who is African-American, while he was in California for the Rose Bowl. They never met face-to-face.
Keith added, "We are going to look into the search. We are going to corroborate what [Magee and Locksley] report. If the evidence is that there were really no interviews and [West Virginia officials] say that there were, then that's a problem."
West Virginia President Mike Garrison, who headed the search committee, introduced Stewart as the new head coach Jan. 3 at the team hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz. Garrison said then that he had no qualms about a search process that included no formal minority-candidate interview: "I feel very good about how the search was conducted. Things worked out the right way."
Jennifer McIntosh, the executive director of the West Virginia University President's Office for Social Justice, said her office assists searches "to make sure there is proper reaching out to [minority] candidates," and she believed this coaching search was "done appropriately."
Asked specifically about Keith's talk with Pastilong pointing out that an apparently viable candidate in Magee worked on campus, McIntosh responded, "Who? I don't know anything about [Magee]."
"That's my point," responded Magee, though he has not filed a complaint with McIntosh's office, the university center for issues dealing with harassment and discrimination.
Amid West Virginia's post-game celebration after its upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, in which Magee's offense scored on four of seven second-half plays at one point, Garrison noticeably shook hands with every assistant coach but Magee, said Brown.
Magee said Pastilong that night offered, "'Great job, good luck to you.' Not 'Great job, can we sit down and talk?' Not 'Great job, what are you thinking [about your future]?' It ... it's ... it's puzzling.
"The whole entire time I was at the bowl site working and doing my job, not once did anybody in power ask me to stay. Not one time. All I got was, 'Good luck, congratulations. ...' Like, 'Get out of here.'
Pastilong maintains that Stewart extended an offer for all assistants at the Fiesta Bowl to remain with the Mountaineers and his new staff, though only two stayed.
"I'm getting so many e-mails from people who want me to stay, but those are the only [requests] I got," Magee said. "Didn't get them from anyone inside the program. That was disappointing."
"But let me tell you, I'm excited to be here at Michigan. Couldn't wait to get here once it was decided. And the people here have been unbelievably great."
First Published January 20, 2008 12:00 am