The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

April 8, 2014

Criticism of Turnbull’s firing is growing

MORGANTOWN — Hard-hitting criticism of Oliver Luck since his firing of longtime West Virginia University head wresting coach Craig Turnbull has been steadily growing.

And in the firm belief of growing numbers, the current athletic director has done a cruel, absolute injustice to a classy coach and teacher of 36 years at the institution.

Turnbull, a native of Erie, Pa., even had offered to retire on his own terms in 2015. But the inconsiderate Luck stubbornly declined to grant the widely respected and well-liked mentor an extra year.

The Cleveland, Ohio, native not only terminated the 61-year-old Turnbull “immediately” on March 28, but reportedly kept him from returning to his office at the Wrestling Pavilion he had created.

Since that happens to be a public campus building, may someone ask Luck, who has a law degree, whether he is legally allowed to deprive that of any person?

It isn’t surprising to me that so many friends are making it known publicly their full support of Turnbull. Making this even more significant is the fact that at least two of these are WVU faculty members.

Professors Paul E. Lewis and Gail C. Van Voorhis saw fit to write letters to the editor deploring Luck’s handling of this issue. Those messages were displayed prominently in The Dominion Post of Morgantown.

What’s more, Mr. Lewis was a witness to what he considered disrespectful treatment of the coach in the athletic director’s office on March 28. The shocking dismissal was announced that Friday afternoon.

Hopefully, further support will come publicly from more WVU staff members with courage. No one would want — or expect — that any Turbull supporters would lose his or her job. I’m told that a meeting of the faculty is scheduled soon for the discussion of various matters.

This isn’t the first of Luck’s hatchet jobs which have been upsetting to faculty and friends during his three years since hired as AD by former president Jim Clements, now at Clemson. Could it be his last?

Some people wish he had taken Luck with him.

Some letters to the editor are asking why Luck doesn’t do something about football and men’s basketball? Those are supposed to be the two major revenue-generating sports.

Neither of those really have fared well since he hired Dana Holgorsen as head football coach. After going 10-3 with predecessor Bill Stewart’s recruits in 2011, the Mountaineers flopped following a 5-0 start in 2012.

Finishing that season a deeply disappointing 7-6, they posted a totally unacceptable 4-8 record in 2013. WVU gridders are 6-14 for their last 20 games.

Yet Luck gave Holgorsen a fourth year — something he refused the late Stewart, who had three consecutive 9-3 regular-season records before Holgorsen took over.

The men’s basketball team, under veteran coach Bob Huggins’ guidance, slipped to records of 19-19, 13-19 and 17-16 the past three seasons.

Huggins has a multi-million dollar, lifetime contract Luck negotiated and Clements approved.

If Luck had fired Holgorsen, his hire, after 2013, WVU would have reportedly had to pay him $11.2 million under his contract terms.

I keep wondering whether WVU professors have such contract terms.

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