The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

July 5, 2013

Why not men’s track at West Virginia?

MORGANTOWN — If you needed to reinstate a men’s sport, would you select the game of golf instead of track and field?

Director of Athletics Oliver Luck and Company have done just that. For the first time in 33 years, that men’s sport is going to rejoin West Virginia’s athletic program in 2015-16.

Personally, I would have selected — without a doubt — men’s track and field, which was discontinued after 2004. A men’s sport is needed to meet Big 12 compliance bylaw requirements. Both track and golf are popular sports in that faraway league, which WVU joined hastily a year ago.

To many people, that remains a questionable decision and it cost the university $20 million just to get out of the Big East Conference.

While I agree that both golf and track and field are great sports, I firmly believe that men’s track and field certainly would have made the most sense. Just six men compose a golf team.

The present track facilities could be easily improved with updating at a small cost. The women’s coaching staff already is in place, and it could take over the men’s reins as previous coaches have done, even before Title IX was passed into law.

In that connection, such national legislation was aimed at providing opportunities for more women to compete in intercollegiate athletics. But I never have seen anything that stated it should deny men of such opportunities.

Yet there are those who believe it certainly does, and that’s unfortunate.

Track and field has helped thousands of WVU athletes over the years, especially in football and probably other sports.

What’s more, numerous gridders were on scholarship and that saved money for track and field as far as finances go.

James Jett of the Martinsburg area is an excellent example. He earned All-America status in both sports. He also was an Olympic gold medalist.

Jett is a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, as is All-America track star Mike Mosser of the 1970s.

Go back a lot farther and you have Chuck Howley, the university’s only five-sport super-star and NL all-time great during the 1950s. Howley, a Wheeling native, credits track for keeping his flexes and body moves in shape.

Isn’t that, speed-wise, also important to athletes generally?  Can there be really as much benefit in playing golf?

Well, Oliver Luck noted that he has discussed golf with many people — including doctors, dentists, lawyers and others — and they supported restoring golf. Why wouldn’t they?

Isn’t it really a rich person’s sport? Luck said $1.5 million for golf already has been donated to WVU.

A writer told Luck many people think he picked golf instead of track and field to accommodate WVU’s biggest donors.

His reply: “I’d say we’re (reviving) golf for the benefit of future scholarship prospects that we’re going to have to play golf.”

In an earlier interview, the athletic director was quoted as saying golf is “cheaper” and that was considered as a factor.

Is that to mean that the athletic department finally is going to quit spending money at the rapid rate it has been that past three years?      

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