The Times West Virginian

June 19, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN- Are Clements and Luck fair to media and jobs?

By Mickey Furfari
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — This column is going to be strictly a “think piece” — mine! I feel it’s one none of the younger columnists could or would undertake.

To a guy in his 68th year on the West Virginia University sports beat, I consider it a very sad commentary on the times that neither WVU President James Clements nor Athletic Director Oliver Luck apparently will grant live interviews at least to some writers.

They are requesting that questions be emailed and assigning a public relations underling to respond, if not a “no comment” via email. I think that’s outrageous.

It lacks both courtesy and respect, in my opinion. The public deserves better from two of the school’s highest paid employees and so-called academic and athletic leaders.

During my entire newspaper career, I have interviewed 13 WVU presidents and seven athletic directors at one time or another — some on numerous occasions.

Those included one with Dr. Clements and several with Luck, the latter as both a WVU quarterback and as A.D. All my interviews over the years were either in person or on the phone.

I readily admit that not all the interviews I’ve had were particularly pleasant for either side. But at least they were on a person-to-person basis, which made good sense.

Shouldn’t that still be the best today between media types and people in highly paid positions at an institution of higher learning such as WVU?

I certainly think so.

If they’re letting others respond to questions and answers via email, if at all, is either of these powers-that-be really earning all the money he gets in his paycheck?

I really can’t say. But I’m told that Clements gets $775,000 a year and that Luck receives $550,000 annually — plus incentives for each.

Luck, who has been athletic director for three years, spent money like it was going out of style — with the approval of both Clements and the Board of Governors. The Athletic Department was $13.5 million in the red for fiscal 2012-13.

According to recently released records, obtained by other media outlets under Freedom of Information Act requests, the former WVU Hall of Fame quarterback also has done more traveling than probably any of his predecessors, dating back to the late Harry Stansbury. Much of it was to see his son play football at Stanford and in the NFL with his Indianapolis team.

Luck was cited for “inequities” in the recent public report by W.Va. Attorney General Patrick Morrissey. It also was noted that he violated WVU procedures in not including details as required in travel vouchers for official travel.

Luck also did not attend some WVU football games that conflicted with other personal commitments.

In my opinion, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin should call for an investigation into the sizzling athletic turmoil at the university — from outside sources — and also of the financial situation athletically.

You may recall that final figures on expenses for fiscal 2011-12 were not made public to the media for almost eight months after June 30.

It never took longer than two months (Aug. 30) in most previous fiscal years under previous athletic directors.