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Morgantown Beat — June 17

By Staff | Jun 20, 2008

Mike Garrison’s dire (maybe) straits and the reason God invented Powerball

Every time “Money for Nothing” came on the radio in 1985 (and that was a lot), I’d punch the volume – partly for Mark Knopfler’s cool, crunchy, transistorized guitar riff – but mainly so I could growl along with the chorus:

“… That ain’t workin’

That’s the way you do it

Money for nothin’

And your chicks for free …”

I hadn’t been back in West Virginia all that long, and I didn’t really want to come back at all. My homecoming was made grudgingly, after slogging it out in the-then recession-plagued New South for a time.

I wanted to study creative writing with James Dickey at the University of South Carolina, but I ended up drinking at Myrtle Beach, instead.

I did say hello to him once in a hallway. The author of “Deliverance” was a lot taller than I thought he would be, and he never once squealed like a pig during our very brief exchange.

Back home it was more drinking to go with the minimum wage mailroom gig I secured in the newspaper I interned at before I dropped out. I’d pretend I was Charles Bukowski, but he actually wrote – I was just hungover and annoyed. 

My 20s (both the age frame and the currency) were fading fast, and I really started feeling the difference between me and what I called the PWM — People with Money.

Twenty-three years later, it’s a little better. No more drinking, and I eventually earned my degree (really), but I’m still feeling the difference.

Especially here in Morgantown, where it seems there are just as many McMansions as there are mobile home parks these days.

This is where millions of dollars (really) are being bandied about in controversies and conflicts related to jobs that pay just a little better than the one I took back in my Dire Straits days.

After all, the marquee donors who battened down their checkbooks had to be a big reason in Mike Garrison’s decision to step down as West Virginia University president on the anniversary of D-Day.

But if money talks, it sasses back, too.

Even though the president is vacating Stewart Hall in September, it looks like his $225,000 salary might still be landing in his bank account for a while after – maybe up to three years, in fact, if the Charleston Gazette is to be believed.

If the dish doesn’t go out, the rest of us can watch “Decision Makers” this weekend as Rich Rodriguez explains to Bray Cary why he shouldn’t pony up the $4 million for that buyout, even if he did agree to it in writing.

On April Fool’s Day of this year, John Beilein made the first of his buyout installment payments to WVU on a personal check. For $290,000.

I did say it was a personal check, right?

Maybe the Martinsburg Journal-News had it pegged all along. Just check out its June 8 editorial on the Garrison announcement:

“A final thought,” the editorial reads. “While this is an important story, we do not get the feeling it is of much interest to the average residents of West Virginia … it is not on most people’s priority list of concerns, not like the price of gas, Iraq and health care are on those lists. Out in the real world, life will go on regardless of who the faculty wants to be WVU’s president.”

Oh, we’re interested. I sure wrote about it enough. It’s just that it’s PWM. I’m not in the club, and the 1,298 of my neighbors who filed for bankruptcy in this state last year aren’t either. That’s why God invented Powerball.

Yeah, that’s the way you do it.

Contact Jim at jbissett@graffitiwv.com