The Times West Virginian

December 16, 2011

Luck ‘absolutely thrilled’ to be at WVU

By John Veasey
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — West Virginia University athletic director Oliver Luck spoke here Thursday and gave comforting words to those in the civic club audience that he had no desire to be the commissioner of the Big 12 Conference that his school would soon be joining.

“I love West Virginia University,” Luck said. ”It’s a great job. I love state scholarship grants that turn a coal miner’s daughter into a teacher.”

Luck is in his second year as WVU’s director of athletics.

“I was absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to return to my alma mater here as athletic director,” he said.

“I’m known in most places as Andrew’s Dad,” he added, referring to his son who was a runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting less that a week previously as a quarterback at Stanford.

The plus one playoff

There’s a lot of support right now for what people are calling the plus-one playoff in football, which is basically a four-team playoff.

“As we look at our business, I do think that people realize that there has to be a little bit better way of doing this.”

He said the reason bowls were started was to get people living in the North down south.

“Not too many people lived down South then,” Luck said. “The bowl games were never intended to be a playoff.”

He said most players would rather get right back into it and to play now than to wait several weeks between games.

 “There’s a lot of pressure right now for a four-team playoff,” he said. “This year you would have Stanford play LSU and Alabama play Oklahoma State. The winners of those two games would play a title game.”

Who should play for the championship this season?

“It’s difficult to argue with LSU being in the national championship game. I would probably have preferred having Oklahoma State facing LSU. It’s kind of the American way. Alabama had their chance. They didn’t do it. Now let’s give someone else a chance.

Luck said he is telling his coaches to prepare “as if you’re going to be in the Big 12 next year. We’re focused on playing Big 12 schedules,” he said.

Rumors are Rich Rodriguez would like to have Jeff Casteel as his defensive coordinator out in Arizona, Luck said. “I don’t know whether that’s true or not. Jeff’s under contract here.”

He said Castell turned down Rodriguez when he went to Michigan and implied it could happen again.

“Jeff can do what he wants, but we certainly would like to have him here next year. I think he likes the university, and the university likes him.”

Things rosy

“Things are looking very rosy in Morgantown,” he said. “We had good success with women’s soccer that won the Big East title. The football team wound up 9-3. I think we should have been 10-2, but we lost to Louisville.”

Luck said that Tommy Bowden, former Clemson head coach and a Morgantown native, would help the WVU team get ready for Clemson — the Mountaineers’ opponent in the Orange Bowl Jan. 4.

He said that “we realize a lot of our programs will have to raise their talent level to get ready for the Big 12.”

He said the college football world has gone for many years “without any real control at the top.” He said that football is the “cash cow” that generates the vast majority of revenues for all other programs.

Football has been in a huge game of musical chairs since the summer of 2010.

He said Nebraska got everything going by jumping from the Big 12 to the Big Ten.

In the second round of realignment, Pitt and Syracuse decided to leave the Big East and throw their line with the Atlantic Coast Conference. Then many teams began jumping conferences.

Luck mentioned the time, in the 2010 Final Four semifinals, that WVU coach Bob Huggins consoled Da’Sean Butler, who had gone down with an injury.

“There were only three people who could possibly have consoled him — his mother, his father, his coach. The millions of people who were watching him saw a picture of compassion. ... Here you had Bob Huggins, a white guy, hugging Da’Sean Butler, a black guy. That was a very powerful image, one of the most poignant scenes I have seen in sports in my lifetime.”

Big TV contract

Luck mentioned the Big 12’s financial advantages.

WU gets about $7 million from the Big East, while the Big 12 payoff is about $18 million.

“So you can see the value of going into the Big 12, although we are on a graduated scale,” Luck said.

“Our goal is to be competitive and to win national championships,” he added.

He said he believes he is correct in saying that WVU is the winningest college football program that has not won a national championship.

Close to home

Luck said WVU would need to play its non-conference games in West Virginia or in states close by when it joins the Big 12.

“With expansion a probability, the game of musical chairs is still ongoing,” Luck noted. “It may have died out somewhat, but it’s playing in the background someplace.”

He believes there will be five power conferences at some point in the future.

Luck was asked what WVU was doing to prevent any scandal of the type that has hit Penn State and Syracuse over the past few weeks.

“What makes me most nervous is all the summertime activity we do on our campus,” he answered.

“I recommended to our administration that we take a look at all of our policies and procedures ... and the background checks we do. We have talked to our coaches about the Penn State and Syracuse situations, that we all have enough moral courage if we see something bad to report it.”

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