The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

December 21, 2010

Luck: No donor influence

MORGANTOWN — While admitting that financial considerations played a large role in his decision to fire head football coach Bill Stewart, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck denied Monday on Hoppy Kercheval’s WAJR talk show that big money donors to the program had no influence on the move.

“The money does matter at the end of the day,” Luck said.

When asked if donors played a part in the decision, Luck firmly denied any influence peddling took place at all.

“I have not had one so-called big donor tell me what to do,” Luck said. “I see people around who are huge supporters of Mountaineer athletics. I have not had one tell me to do this or do that. I report to President Clements. I run my decisions by the president. That’s my sounding board.”

What Luck saw in the Stewart era as coach was a decline in interest in the football program as well as in the success the program was having. He did not like the style of offense that was being played and the results that were coming from it.

He also has looked hard at the college football scene and sees a number of changes still on the horizon and worries that West Virginia will be left behind if it didn’t make itself more relevant on the national scene.

“We are in the middle of the pack offensively,” he said. “I have looked at teams that win national championships and they are in the top tier of the national rankings.”

A former quarterback, Luck spent a lot of time this year watching his son, Andrew, play at Stanford as he became a Heisman Trophy candidate.

He saw an exciting offense there, especially compared to what he was seeing at his own school.

“I felt we were slipping. Most teams play to their competition. The Big East slipped and I think we slipped a little bit. I want to make sure we retain relevancy at the national level,” Luck said.

Luck emphasizes that college football is in a state of flux at present with teams jumping conferences, including TCU coming to the Big East. The map of college football is rapidly changing.

“There’s no guarantee all these conferences will be here 10 and 20 years from now,” Luck said. “We’ve seen a lot of changes. I’m convinced there’s a lot more to come.”

If he is right in that regard, he believes it is important that the Mountaineers following does not fall off, making it a valuable commodity no matter what direction the college game goes.

“People vote with their feet,” he said. “I believe in the wisdom of the masses. The fact of the matter is when season tickets decline and people don’t show up at games, it is what it is. You can analyze it a thousand different ways, but the fact is we weren’t playing very attractive football. Viewing habits change. There is a basis to believe some of the portion of the decline had to do with the way we were playing.”

Luck had stated publically that he wanted his WVU teams to compete for the national championship, a tall order for a new coach like Dana Holgorsen, who has never coached a game of football. He was asked if, in three years if he had not gotten to that stage if he would be considered a failure.

“I believe a program needs to be making progress toward winning a national title,” Luck said. “True, we have not ever won a national title but we came close in 1988 and in 2007 when Coach Rodriguez went 11-0 going into the Pitt game.

“Will we win a national championship in the next 5 or 10 years? I don’t know. But I believe we can set as a goal winning the national championship. We can be making progress. We won’t know in 5, 10 or 15 years if college football will be the same. There may be a playoff. We may merge with the ACC.”

And no matter what direction it takes, Luck wants to be ready and at the forefront, which is what pushed him to make the change that he made.

Hanging over all of this is an NCAA investigation into major violations originated under Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia and carried on in Stewart’s administration. Luck admits that major violations will come down in the fall when the findings are announced.

“If you commit two major violations in a five-year period the NCAA can give out enhanced penalties and that could affect whole well being of the athletic department as a whole,” Luck said.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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