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Rich Stevens: Is startup conference looking at commish?

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- My momma always told me that no news is good news.

In the case of the Mountain East Conference, this might not be true.

The conference is to begin operations for the 2013-14 NCAA Division II athletic season, yet there has been little news about where the league office will be located, the administrative staff and scheduling.

However, sources have told me that former Wheeling Jesuit athletic director and men's basketball coach Jay DeFruscio has spoken to West Liberty University President Robin Capehart about the commissioner position.

That would be good news structurally for the new league, athough Mountain East spokesperson Reid Amos said no movement has been made toward the hiring of a commissioner.

"While there have been some preliminary discussions aimed at identifying viable and interested candidates, there are no imminent plans regarding the hiring of any personnel," Amos said.

President Capehart did not return messages seeking comment.

DeFruscio is in his second year as the associate commissioner of the Atlantic 10, a non-football playing league based in Newport News, Va.

He spent the four years prior as an assistant coach for the NBA's Indiana Pacers.

DeFruscio would certainly be qualified to help the Mountain East get off its feet, but said his interviewing is just rumors.

"That's all rumors," DeFruscio said from the Atlantic 10 offices in Newport News, Va. "All rumors. I love being rumored about things. I don't think they're anywhere near making moves there. They still have a league they're playing this year."

DeFruscio knows Capehart, but that he simply "ran into" him at a popular Wheeling establishment.

"I know Robin personally. I was in Wheeling a couple months ago. I was at the Alpha (a Wheeling restaurant and lounge) and ran into him."

DeFruscio - a native of Philadelphia - still has ties to Wheeling. His daughter is a student at Wheeling Jesuit, where DeFruscio served as athletic director for 20 years, men's basketball coach for 18 years and served briefly as acting director of admissions. He began his coaching tenure at WJU in 1984 when then-coach Jim O'Brien appointed him as a graduate assistant.

Shortly after O'Brien was hired to coach the Pacers in 2007, DeFruscio accepted a position on his mentor's staff. In January 2011, O'Brien was fired and later last year, DeFruscio was hired on the administrative staff of the Atlantic 10.

A message left for Capehart was not returned.

For DeFruscio's part, he is disappointed there won't be a West Virginia Conference Tournament after this season.

"Obviously as an old West Virginia guy, the only thing I could say is the only thing that stays the same in college athletics is change," DeFruscio said. "Here at the Atlantic 10, we had change ourselves.

"Change is happening. I have the utmost respect for West Virginia Conference schools. Having coached in the West Virginia Conference for more than 20 years as an assistant and head coach, the tournament is a great thing. There's a uniqueness to that. It's hard to duplicate."

The 76th and final WVC Tournament is set for March 2013 and at the conclusion of this school year, the league will dissolve. Nine of the schools will join three others to create the Mountain East Conference.

While DeFruscio isn't sure about the timetable the NCAA has in place for new leagues, he said there is a lot of work involved.

"My guess is there's people smarter than me who have figured this out before they stepped out," DeFruscio said. "My guess is, from the outside, is scheduling. Obviously you have to make sure football and basketball and all those things are schedule.

"Anytime you start a new venture, as a school, having done this with (new Atlantic 10 members) VCU and Butler, there's an orientation period."

The Mountain East Conference has a name, but not much else, and while there is some trepidation about moving too quickly, the fact is, time is running out.

Getting a commissioner in place would be a big step toward making everything else happen sooner rather than later.

There has been much speculation about how much power Capehart has in the formation of the Mountain East. While it's safe to call him the catalyst, there are other people to whom he answers.

If Capehart wants to move quickly, his thinking comes from a rational place.

However, there's a delicate balance between putting the right people in the right places, yet taking too long to pull the trigger.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at or 304-348-4837.


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