By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Oliver Luck was in a jovial mood Monday morning, as he is any morning he rises with dollar signs in his eyes.
In truth he was feeling like the J-Ollie Green (as in money) Giant, for at 9 a.m. he was going to announce that West Virginia was adding golf as its 18th varsity sport in 2015-16.
It wasn’t like it was any surprise. He’d been hinting it was on his agenda almost before the ink was dry on his contract to become athletic director ... and he’d been around the track enough times, so to speak, that he knew adding golf would come with a lot of strong criticism from the pro track forces.
Men’s track and field, like golf, is a sport that once flourished at WVU.
Golf had been gone for 33 years, ever since they built a stadium and law school on the course it called its own. Men’s track was simply a victim of the times, caught up in a Title IX compliance situation at a time when the athletic department really was feeling a financial crunch.
Unlike golf, track had produced champions and Olympians along the way, and some of them were quite upset at losing the sport at the state university and are now more upset about not getting it back.
But Luck didn’t care about that because ... well, because already they have been pledged more than $1.5 million in donations.
See, there’s this thing that golf has that track doesn’t for the most part — business leaders, judges, lawyers, bankers, country club members.
All too often men’s track and field performers are not country club members — and may not ever be.
See, golf just may be the gift that keeps on giving.
This was, quite simply, a decision based upon dollars — as, it seems, almost every decision that is made these days is based upon.
If it isn’t football or basketball, it gets shortchanged at West Virginia, and, it is sad to admit, most every other major school.
According to Luck’s in-depth analysis it will cost “approximately” $257,162 — give or take a spare quarter — to fully implement the program in 2017-18, which is when they see it being fully implemented.
That’s the entire cost.
May we note that is “approximately” $42,838 less than Dana Holgorsen’s raise this year.
Luck said that one of the reasons golf was selected was because it is played at 108 high schools in the state of West Virginia with 1,016 participants.
That sounds impressive ... so much so that when the program begins Luck will offer all of 1.5 scholarships and, when fully implemented, the scholarship limit is 4.5.
But, then again, how many West Virginia high school students play football or basketball in the state and how many of them land WVU scholarships?
Track offers 11 scholarships, so that’s 5.5 scholarships more than golf, and by the time they are given that figures to be a good bit of cash — even if it is cash that goes from the athletic department into another of the school’s coffers.
Then there’s a matter of uniforms. Track unis and sweats aren’t like dressing a football team, but golf? What do you do, go buy some matching golf shirts?
As for clubs, players almost always come equipped with their own that their dads bought them and that they like quite a lot.
But the big difference is in facilities, for all WVU has to do for home golf matches is rent a golf club. Who knows, courses might even offer a deal on days when they wouldn’t have much business. And since golf doesn’t play head-to-head conference matches, they will stay mostly in the Mid-Atlantic area for tournaments or into the Carolinas, cutting back travel costs.
And as for coaching? Well, you are going to have to hire a golf coach but I’m betting they aren’t really expensive because the expensive ones are teaching at those country clubs. And to add men’s track would probably mean an assistant would have to be added to Sean Cleary’s staff.
Now, you do lose something quite important by not having men’s track and field and that is something to recruit football with as many football backs and receivers are sprinters and linemen hammer or shot put throwers and may want to compete in track.
Perhaps the biggest turnoff, though, is that if they were to bring back men’s track they almost certainly would have to spend big dollars improving both the outdoor track and indoor facility, which has gone to waste.
But then again, that would be cheaper than Luck building a new golf course.
Sure, but did I tell you the story about the way they got themselves a new baseball stadium at WVU?
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.