WVU president James Clements, speaking on a brief and hastily organized afternoon conference call, praised Pastilong while repeatedly emphasizing the strength of the athletic department.
"Ed has done a great job for the university for 20 years. Our programs are doing very very well, and it is a perfect time to start a national search. We are getting ready to start our next strategic plan for the campus, and Ed has said he will play any role we need. He will advising be, mentoring the new athletic director, and raising money. I think we have a very strong department, and the timing is good [to begin the search]."
Clements did not provide additional details on the new strategic plan, but it is clearly an overarching study that will address the direction and the future of the school as a whole. Included in that plan will be planning for the athletic department, which has enjoyed great success over the past few seasons.
Pastilong had noted as recently as late December that he would be receptive to staying on past his announced retirement date. Both Clements and Pastilong deflected questions about that statement, noting that it was "the right time" for the search for a new AD. Clements also addressed the idea that some major University benefactors were pushing for a new AD.
"In terms of outside factors, the decision was solely mine," he said. "People will always feel they can put in their two cents about anything. But on this one, no outside influences, in any way shape or form influenced my decision."
Pastilong thanked Clements, but likewise avoided questions concerning his desire to stay on the job.
"I am pleased that I will be helping in some capacity," he noted. "I am very appreciative to the staff, coaches, student-athletes and fans -- that's what makes you a strong program. With this group working together, we have put together an athletic department that is competitive. It has been a nice run, and we now have privilege of working with outstanding people at an outstanding University."
Clements, who will head the search committee, said that no applications are in hand yet, but that with the strength of the program, he expects to have some "great ones" when the search committee if formed and application solicited. He also acknowledged his awareness of the fact that athletic tuition waivers once allotted to the athletic department were taken away by a previous president, but provided no insight as to whether that topic would be included on the strategic plan.
While no candidates were identified, three names have been mentioned by multiple sources as possible candidates for the position. They include Jim Schaus, (son of former WVU athletic director Fred Schaus), Whit Babcock (former Executive Director of Development for the Mountaineer Athletic Club) and former WVU quarterback Oliver Luck.
Schaus is currently the athletic director at Ohio University. He took that position on April 7, 2008, after a nine-year stint in the same position at Wichita State University. Babcock is an Executive Associate AD at Missouri, where he handles fund-raising and oversees marketing, ticketing and game operations. Luck played professional football for the Houston Oilers before joining the start-up World League of American Football. He rose to president of that organization (it was renamed NFL Europe during his tenure). He has since held positions as CEO of the Houston (Tex.) Sports Authority and team president of the Houston Dynamo. He is also a current member of the WVU Board of Governors.