The Times West Virginian

Mickey Furfari

December 5, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN: The sweet and bitter about Oliver Luck

MORGANTOWN — OK, so athletic director Oliver Luck admittedly remains confident that third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff can turn around West Virginia University’s sinking football program in 2014.

He made that public with a statement of six paragraphs or so to the West Virginia media on Tuesday. I wish he had seen fit to call a press conference, as WVU President Jim Clements did some three years ago to announce joyfully the former Mountaineer quarterback’s appointment as athletic director.

Had Luck called a press conference Tuesday, reporters could have asked questions and, hopefully, received some answers other than “no comment!”

Under Holgorsen’s leadership, the 2013 team finished a totally embarrassing, unacceptable 4-8 in its second year of Big 12 Conference competition. It is only the fifth time of WVU football history of 121 years that the institution has suffered as many as eight setbacks in one season.

What’s more, five or six of the defeats came in, obviously to most fans, what were considered winnable contests. And WVU was the favorite in the final two games lost to Kansas (31-19) and to Iowa State in triple-overtime (54-46).

There are growing numbers of WVU football fans, including rapidly decreasing longtime season-ticket buyers and alumni. who find that totally unacceptable and embarrassing.

Yet Oliver Luck, for whatever reasons, apparently sees no need to change the makeup of the school’s highest paid football coaching staff in history. This, in the wake of what likely will go down in the record books as one of the worst seasons ever.

This program is one that averaged 10 wins a year from 2005-2010. Then Holgorsen went 10-3 in 2011, his first year as a head coach, with the late Bill Stewart’s recruits.

However, WVU has gone 6-14 in the last two years after that sparkling 5-0 start and No. 5 national ranking in 2012.

That’s when probably what will become the most memorable collapse in the school’s history followed.

In my opinion, Luck now has made just another of numerous decisions that are unpopular with thousands of people who are vitally interested in the welfare of their alma mater, both academically and athletically.

Make no mistake, Luck, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, was a student-athlete who earned a lofty legacy, respect and pride as quarterback in 1978-79-80-81.

As a team captain, he led the 1981 Mountaineers to a 9-3 record, including a 26-6 win against highly favored Florida in the 1981 Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

To this day, the legendary coach Don Nehlen says that tremendous triumph and the 41-27 victory over No. 9-ranked Oklahoma at Norman, Okla., to open 1982 put Nehlen’s growing program at the national level.

I also remember how proud I was to be present in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel’s mammoth ballroom that December 1981 night when Oliver Luck was addressing an overflow crowd as honored spokesman on behalf of 11 scholar athletes being feted by the National Football Foundation and Football Hall of Fame ceremonies.

Besides Luck’s proud parents, the WVU delegation included West Virginia Gov. Jay Rockefeller, WVU President Gordon Gee, athletic director Fred Schaus and Nehlen.

And I remember seeing how proud those people were hearing other coaches congratulating Nehlen in particular as they walked out that night.

So while Oliver Luck left WVU with a pleasing departure as a student-athlete and scholar, so many things seemingly have backfired on the athletic director’s dream of winning a national championship in football. WVU couldn’t be further from that at this point, in my opinion.

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Mickey Furfari
  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Blaney wins 100th Sprint Car race

    Stringing together some odds and ends that may be of interest to you:
    • Dale Blaney, the all-time great West Virginia University basketball star, has achieved another historic notch in his athletic career as a Sprint Car racer. He posted his 100th career riding in the All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series at Attica Raceway Park in Ohio last weekend.

    April 12, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- What a wonderful evening with Dr. Stanley ‘Coach’ Kandzari

    This column really is not about sports, per se. But, more importantly, it is about a widely known medical doctor whose nickname happens to be “Coach.”

    April 8, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Turnbull endured many tragedies growing up

    Coach Craig Turnbull, the latest head-coach victim of Oliver Luck’s shocking series of firings at West Virginia University, had generally enjoyed what many rate as an outstanding career not only in athletics but in life.
    Like the present, there also were some very difficult times for him as a youngster.

    April 6, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: All-time WVU great QB Bernie Galiffa dies at 63

    It was very sad to learn that Bernie Galiffa, one of the most outstanding quarterbacks in West Virginia University football history, had passed away.
    The three-year letterman for famed coach Bobby Bowden died last Thursday in Wilmington, N.C., at the age of 63.

    April 4, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Is $106 million in facilities updates really key to WVU sports success?

    You may have heard or read that West Virginia University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is planning to spend $106 million for major projects.
    According to published reports, that is to improve athletic facilities, including Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium and the WVU Coliseum (yet to be named for a rich donor).

    April 2, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Who’s next on Oliver Luck’s hatchet list?

    Who’s going to be next on Oliver Luck’s sad house-cleaning list as West Virginia University’s athletic director?
    Craig Turnbull, the outstanding head coach and builder of the Mountaineers’ wrestling program for 36 years, was notified on Friday afternoon that Luck shockingly announced that his contract will not be renewed on June 30 for next year.

    March 30, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Herbie Brooks one of Catlett’s early standouts at WVU

    Herbie Brooks, a native of Beckley, was an All-Stater at Mullens High School and demonstrated his talents at West Virginia University from 1984-89 in men’s basketball.
    The 6-foot-2, 185-pound guard performed admirably under coach Gale Catlett’s direction.

    March 29, 2014

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