The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

June 3, 2014

‘Detractor’ responds to Luck’s ‘pot shots’

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University Athletic Director Oliver Luck had his say in a recent interview with The Dominion Post.

In that rare press meeting, he criticized unnamed “detractors” who he insisted made his job more difficult because of “pot shots.” Luck urged that all West Virginians should be solidly supportive of the university.

That’s strictly his opinion, and perhaps of others, despite the alleged turmoil he has created by the record number of changes, including some highly questionable firings of coaches and other longtime athletic personnel.

But even this critic, who was an acknowledged friend of Luck when he was a Mountaineer student-athlete in 1981, believes he deserves the right to express strong disagreement with this latest of numerous athletic directors I’ve worked with since 1948.

Let’s go back and start with Luck’s and former WVU president Jim Clement’s decision to take WVU, an eastern institution since its birth, all the way out into the Big 12 Conference.

In so doing, it appears to many folks that they showed no consideration for either WVU sports-minded students or thousands of alumni residing in the East. Unless they’re among the rich, how could they follow the football or basketball teams on road games?

Moreover, did Luck and Clements — and throw in that seemingly sit-back WVU Board of Directors — really consider the extremely greater cost of flying teams from Morgantown all the way to numerous cities in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, etc.?

Any thought to the extra time imposed on the student-athletes to be away from their classrooms? The thought herein is that there’s more time sleeping on lengthy plane trips than studying.

When West Virginia was in such relationships as the Southern Conference for many years, the Eastern Eight, the Atlantic 10 and eventually the Big East — all much closer than “Cowboy Country.”

All of those — long before Luck arrived from Ohio — could be reached by car. Fans could drive to Pitt, Penn State, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Connecticut, Syracuse, etc.

As for the all-time record of revenue in the millions of dollars today, was that really the true original intent of intercollegiate athletics? I don’t believe it was.

Neither do I think the outrageous salaries being paid college coaches were expected.

Don’t athletic directors really consider the fans anymore? Growing cost of tickets continue to swirl out of control. The price goes from $80 to as much as $140 for WVU’s football season opener against Alabama on Aug. 30 at Atlanta. That is so typical apparently for neutral site payoffs. Luck reportedly is seeking more of those for profit.

Will that eventually reduce the number of home games?

What’s more, West Virginia fans had to make a donation to the fundraising Mountaineer Athletic Club for the ticket-buying privilege.

A longtime friend, shaking his head in disbelief, recalled, “I can remember paying $2 for a ticket to a home football game and we complained when they raised the price to a mere $2.50.

“My, times have really changed!”

What really bothers those “detractors” probably the most, honestly, is that the excessive emphasis on money-making has hoisted intercollegiate athletics above academics in the totality of some major colleges.

Be honest now, which was really the intended most important?

In that connection, Dr. E. Gordon Gee, WVU’s new leader, revealed recently that he’s a member of a national committee of college presidents. The mission is to seek some semblance of balance.

Has the imbalance become so great that the changes needed cannot be made at WVU or elsewhere?

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