‘Football is king’
That began with football.
“Football is king. No question about that, but the Olympic sports do matter. Volleyball matters, men’s and women’s soccer matter, swimming matters,” he said, adding, “I thought we really had to make sure we had the best coaches we could, that we were focused on those sports. I felt improving in all those sports would help us navigate in all this conference confusion. I didn’t know where we were going to end up. It’s like making sure the company you want to sell in three years from now is tip-top, you’ve gotten rid of all the problems.”
And so it was a number of coaching changes were made, including the biggest one, firing Bill Stewart and bringing in Dana Holgorsen.
“Football drives everything and football is big in Texas,” Luck said. “It just dawned on me (how big). Sports Illustrated had a picture of the top four quarterbacks in the draft ... Andrew (his son, of Stanford, who will be the first pick in the NFL draft), Robert Griffin III (the Heisman winner from Baylor), Ryan Tannehill from A&M and Brandon Weeden, the Oklahoma State kid. Tannehill is from Abilene, Griffin is from a little place near Colleen, Andrew cut his teeth in Houston and Weeden is from Oklahoma,” Luck said.
“It’s not just a coincidence that three of the top four quarterbacks are from Texas. It’s serious football. High school, college ... they take it seriously. It’s Friday Night Lights; it’s a religion.”
And that will give a higher profile to WVU’s football program and help players like Geno Smith and Tavon Austin in bids for top national awards, WVU never having produced a Heisman Trophy winner.
Things will change
The entire athletic department at WVU is facing a change. Rifle and men’s soccer will not take part in the Big 12 as it does not offer those sports, and WVU will add another sport, either men’s golf, men’s track and field, or men’s tennis, but the biggest change will be in baseball.
“Baseball is a project,” Luck said. “Big 12 baseball is clearly good.”
It is a major sport in many ways.
“I went to law school in Texas, and the baseball field is 400 or 500 yards from the law school and I used to go over and watch a game or two. There were 6,000 people there. It’s gotten even bigger since I was there,” Luck noted.
At WVU baseball has been an afterthought. Poorly attended and with an inferior facility, Hawley Field.
“We need to upgrade the infrastructure. Hawley Field is not adequate for that,” Luck said. “If Texas or Oklahoma kids came to Hawley Field they would roll their eyes and say, ‘Coach, really.’
He is planning to play conference games at first in cities in the state that have a decent facility like Charleston, Beckley and Princeton, while at the same time he is pushing to get a TIF (tax increment financing) through that would build a stadium at the University Town Center that would also be used by a minor league baseball team.
“The TIF makes sense,” he said. “It’s also a great move for this community ... and I would include Fairmont and Clarksburg in that. Already there are minor league teams knocking on the door.”