The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 30, 2014

Luck strikes another damaging blow to West Virginia University

For The Register-Herald

MORGANTOWN — For several months it has been rumored that well-liked Mike Parsons would be leaving West Virginia University after nearly 35 years as an outstanding member of the athletic department staff.

As you may have heard, the Charleston native now has been notified that his contract as longtime deputy director of athletics will not be renewed June 30, 2014. It’s now a reality. They cleaned out his desk in the Coliseum yesterday.

In my opinion, this is just another damaging, unjustified blow by athletic director Oliver Luck, who took over his position on June 9, 2010.

I’m told Luck didn’t even extend the courtesy of informing Parsons in person. The bad news came by messenger.

That’s not surprising to a guy who’s been reporting on WVU athletic events for more than 70 years, though. Luck has rarely held a press conference to give the media opportunities to ask questions. As a result, he has raised so many unanswered questions by his moves that he may have set an all-time WVU record.

That is, except for WVU athletic news bits he feeds to buddies on the Charleston newspapers. I’m certainly not jealous, believe me.

There had been reports, even before Luck’s arrival, that attempts by one or more members of the WVU Board of Governors tried unsuccessfully to have Parsons dismissed, seemingly strictly on personal bias.

Luck, himself a former member of the BOG, helped in the selection of Dr. Jim Clements as WVU president. Clements, in turn, hired Luck as A.D.

Clements resigned recently to become president at Clemson University.

Meantime, Luck was passed over for the more lucrative athletic director position at Texas University. He has a law degree from there and had reportedly been widely considered for that job.

Don’t feel sorry for Luck, though. Thanks to the BOG and Clements, the Ohio native is pocketing an annual base salary of about 700,000 and incentives.

That’s about three times the salary of the $228,000 Ed Pastilong was being paid when he retired after 21 years as Luck’s predecessor. Pastilong had a total of 35 years of athletic administration work.

Since retiring as an NFL player, Luck served in a variety of roles — all at the professional sports level. There are those who think he has turned the WVU sports program from an amateur to a money-making professional venture.

Some say that’s widespread collegiately in the country today. But does that, if true, really make it right?

As for Mike Parsons, I have known him longer than anyone here. I first met him when he was a student public relations type at Morris Harvey College in Charleston. The 59-year-old WVU goodwill ambassador has come a long way since then.

He probably has made more friends during his 35 years here than anyone else now a part of his alma mater and mine.

Those include not only people with whom he has so diligently worked in Morgantown but with other people around the state. What’s more, Parsons loves the university and the roles he fulfilled.

He also dealt with radio and television people throughout the U.S. on behalf of West Virginia. He has been especially popular with all athletes, coaches and associates. They’re still friends and key contacts.

Mike and wife Julie have three children and the fine family remains a key part of the Mountain State. They love WVU and its surroundings.

It’s a shame that Parsons now faces the necessity to look elsewhere to continue his brilliant career.

After serving as an assistant sports information staffer at Florida State briefly, Parsons joined the WVU athletic department as Sports Information Director in 1979 under then-A.D. Dick Martin.

In 1982 he was named assistant A.D. for communications under Fred Schaus. Then he was promoted to the position of deputy A.D. by Ed Pastilong.

Parsons was retained in that role when Luck took over as A.D. in 2010.