Sharp Loses Long Battle With Cancer

  • March 17, 2010 05:34 PM
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WVU News and Information Services
March 17, 2010

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Russ Sharp, a confessed workaholic who still made time for friends and family, died Wednesday, after a long battle with prostate cancer.

  While managing a multi-million dollar athletic budget, Sharp was a key figure in upgrading WVU’s athletic facilities.
The Dominion Post photo

"The WVU community is diminished today with the passing of Russ Sharp," said WVU President James P. Clements. "He was as fine an individual as you'll ever come across - loyal, honest, dedicated to the University, a great friend and colleague. It is rare to find the combination of personal and professional excellence; Russ had both in abundance."

Sharp, 52, joined WVU in 1999 as assistant athletic director and was promoted to associate athletic director in 2002 and, later, senior associate athletic director for administration and finance. He was responsible for business operations, facilities, game management for football and basketball and human resources. In addition, he directly supervised athletic training, strength and conditioning and equipment operations.

"Russ was one of the finest human beings that I have ever been associated with," Director of Athletics Ed Pastilong said. "He was one of the best athletic administrators in the country, and West Virginia University has been extremely fortunate that he was a part of our family.

"His contribution to the financial management, facility improvements and overall departmental operations has benefitted this department tremendously. His legacy will live on every day because of his devotion to improving our athletic facilities for our student-athletes, fans and employees.

"During his tenure here, he devoted his life to elevating WVU’s Athletic Department, and it has been appreciated by every member of this department," Pastilong said. "On behalf of WVU Athletics, I want to extend our sympathy to his wife, Teri, and son, Matt. This is a sad day for our department as we have lost a great friend and administrator."

Sharp is remembered as much for his friendly demeanor as he is for his tireless drive.

"Russ Sharp was a hidden gem for West Virginia University," Deputy Director of Athletics Mike Parsons said. "He accomplished so much during his years here, always making WVU a stronger and better athletic program. He always did things the right way.

"His lasting legacy will be seen every day. As we walk through the stadium, the Coliseum or any of our outstanding athletic facilities, you will see a piece of Russ' labor in each one," Parsons said. "We have lost an outstanding colleague but we have lost an even better friend. The staff of the athletic department is like family. Russ was part of the fiber of that family."

Sharp played a major role in renovations and new-projects planning, including the new basketball practice facility, a $19 million project expected to be completed in 2011.

"Russ Sharp has been instrumental in creating the facilities and procedures that have helped to make our athletic department as competitive as it is today," said former president David Hardesty, who worked with Sharp for eight years. "He was an excellent administrator and a wonderful human being."

Sharp was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 but even amid chemotherapy treatments he stayed connected to the WVU Athletic Department, checking his e-mail from the hospital bed, welcoming visitors most days and, later, setting up shop at his home and hosting weekly meetings in his living room.

He was reluctant to publicly discuss his cancer but agreed to be the subject of an in-depth feature story in The Dominion Post newspaper to inspire others.

“People go through stuff, and I think it’s just good for people to know others go through things, and they can make it through things,” Sharp told DP sports editor Drew Rubinstein in 2009.

In June of 2008, Sharp was bestowed with the College Athletic Business Management Association Manager of the Year Award, an honor that is annually presented to members who have excelled in the execution of their duties and responsibilities in their institutions.

Prior to joining WVU, Sharp was athletic director at Centenary College from 1994-99. From 1990-94, he served as assistant athletic director for business and internal affairs at Arkansas State, after spending 11 years at West Georgia College, his alma mater. From 1979-89, he served as West Georgia’s athletic business manager and director of sports medicine. In 1989, he was promoted to assistant athletic director for business affairs and executive director of the Braves Boosters.

Sharp has been active on a number of NCAA and conference committees throughout his career. He has been a member of CABMA for 23 years and has served as a district representative. Sharp is currently a member of the membership committee.

Sharp has served as an NCAA rifle committee member and was serving on the BIG EAST championship and competition committee at his death. He has also served on the NCAA peer review team for athletics certification on seven occasions.

A 1983 graduate of West Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in education, Sharp was inducted into the West Georgia Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.

Sharp donated his body to WVU Hospitals for medical research and educational purposes.

A memorial service is planned for Monday, March 22 at 11 a.m. at the Suncrest United Methodist Church, 479 Van Voorhis Road, Morgantown, WV 26505, with the Rev Tim Halloran officiating.

Aside from Teri and Matt, he is survived by his mother, Charlotte.