The Times West Virginian

Mickey Furfari

November 14, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN: Will Clements’ departure affect WVU athletics?

MORGANTOWN — Dr. James Clements’ resignation as West Virginia University’s 23rd president for the same position at Clemson raises some serious questions about how this might affect athletic director Oliver Luck and/or the school’s ailing sports program.

For starters, some people are wondering whether Clements is going to take Luck with him to Clemson, S.C., as his A.D., just as he brought the former Mountaineer quarterback back here in 2010. Clements reportedly even took a trip to Houston, Texas, in a last-ditch effort urging Luck to join him at the university.

The two men obviously had become close friends earlier. You may recall that Luck as a member of the WVU Board of Governors helped in the selection of Clements five years ago. He came to WVU from Towson (Md.) University, where Clements filled roles as provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Meanwhile, Texas writers and broadcasters were saying for weeks that Oliver Luck was generally considered to be the front-runner for the athletic director’s $1 million job at the University of Texas. But all of a sudden last week those sources said Luck had been removed from consideration for that position. According to reports, Texas’ Board of Regents had a change of heart.

Luck, who had seemingly not said anything publically during all that drawn-out speculation, has a law degree from Texas.

Regular readers of this column may recall that I inquired of Drew Payne, then chairman of the university’s board of governors, why his panel hadn’t controlled the then-wild spending of intercollegiate athletics at that time.

His reply a year or so ago:

Payne explained the board had voted unanimously in favor of allowing the president and athletic director full freedom to spend as much as they needed to benefit WVU.

Well, there are those people — including some big donors and graduates — who really felt that it was not wise to spend $20 million to get out of the Big East Conference hastily, and join the Big 12 Conference.

I happen to be a WVU alumnus who agrees with them. In doing that, the powers-that-be deprived nearly all the university’s students of following their football, basketball and other teams on the longer-than-before trips for road games.

It’s also considerably more expensive for the athletic department; which seemingly has become too much of a big, big, business. And it’s hitting WVU fans’ pocketbooks, isn’t it?

I know people who don’t think that’s beneficial to academia. There are others who believe it is beneficial in the long run. Do you?

West Virginia tried to become a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference when it was formed, way back there in 1953-54. Both the lack of modern-day highways and adequate airplane service into Morgantown were cited as the major reasons WVU couldn’t be accepted into the ACC.

More rejections reportedly followed since then over the years for various reasons whatsoever.

Were there an opportunity for WVU to return to a conference somewhat eastward, I’m told it would cost $50 million to exit the Big 12.

Did anyone at WVU give any thought to that under the departing president’s watch?

In my opinion, numerous other WVU questions athletically need to be answered eventually.

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Mickey Furfari
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