By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Perhaps you wondered why West Virginia University athletic director Oliver Luck would schedule national power Alabama to open a football season in which his team is coming off a 4-8 year and is filled with questions, including at quarterback.
The answer to that is now out.
Both West Virginia and Alabama will receive $3.2 million for the 2014 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome to open the 2014 college football season on Aug. 31, according to a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Tuesday.
Both schools also will receive a $50,000 donation toward the creation of an endowed scholarship.
The paper obtained both the West Virginia and Alabama contracts via Freedom of Information requests.
West Virginia agreed to sell 25,000 tickets for the game and Alabama 31,000.
Luck told the paper that WVU normally can expect to make a profit of less than $2 million for a single home game, so scheduling this game made fiscal sense for the school, but did make note that the city’s hotels, restaurants and businesses do not gain anything from it.
Interestingly, while the game was announced on May 17, 2012, and Alabama signed its contract on May 29, 2012, Luck did not sign the WVU contract until Dec. 3, 2013, 18 months later.
He said WVU had to do some schedule shuffling to include the showdown against the team that is expected to contend again for a national title and is coached by West Virginian Nick Saban.
Luck said one of the reasons he was willing to play this opener in Atlanta rather than a normal home opening was that it is easier because it isn’t a home-and-home matchup and because it can be done more quickly than finding a way to work that home-and-home situation into the schedule.
Luck admitted he had been trying to revive the rivalry with either Penn State or Virginia Tech – with Pitt no longer on the schedule – but was looking at a long lapse before anything could be worked out.
“There’s only, say, a three-year lag time with the Alabama game whereas when I was trying to book Penn State or Virginia Tech back on the schedule, it was a 10-year lag time by the time they had availability for a home-and-home,” Luck told the paper.
The last two years Luck gave up home games to play in pro stadiums, facing James Madison at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., in 2012 and last September playing Maryland at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
WVU also has scheduled a game against Brigham Young at FedEx Field on Sept. 24, 2016.
According to the terms of the contract, Alabama will be the home team, giving the TV rights to the SEC to televise the game over CBS. Should CBS decline, they will work with ESPN to do the telecast.
Tickets will run from $50 for student end zone seats – which WVU gets none of — to $200 for suites.
Most of the tickets will range between $80 and $140.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.