The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

June 15, 2010

Luck takes over reins at WVU

Former Mountaineer quarterback now the AD at his alma mater

By Dave Morrison
Register-Herald Sports Editor

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia president James P. Clements wasted precious few adjectives on Oliver Luck when he introduced the former Mountaineer as the school’s new Athletic Director Monday.

“He epitomizes what we all know,” Clements said. “Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer.”

He will need all the adjectives he can muster, and a lot of hard work, to maneuver the Mountaineers through the coming months.

And he knows it.

With conference expansion the talk of the summer in college athletics, Luck knows the current landscape is changing like a clock on a wall.

Already, the Big 12 has subtracted two as Colorado and Nebraska have bolted for the Pac 10-10 and Big 10. Texas (where Luck earned a law degree while playing in the NFL in the mid-’80s), and Oklahoma were considering leaving before announcing they were staying put late Monday evening. But more changes are imminent.

In a perfect world, nothing would change, Luck said.

“It’s safe to say that we’d love to see the status quo continue, but like every other university, I think we need to be smart, strategic and try to figure out if X, Y and Z happened, what are our alternatives,” Luck said. “We are talking to a lot of folks to make sure we do have potential opportunities should certain contingencies take place.”

Luck said that he, Athletic Director Emeritus Ed Pastilong (whom he replaced) and Clement have all been on the phone getting information.

And next week, Luck will be part of a Big East conference call with fellow ADs and presidents.

Luck sees the Mountaineers sitting in a good position, noting, as did Clements, that WVU is a favorite of fans on network television. WVU had the top-rated game last year on ESPN2 and ESPN 360. Not to mention the success of the men’s basketball team and the fact that the school is 14th in collegiate merchandising.

“Obviously it’s a challenging time within intercollegiate athletics given all the talk of conference realignment,” Luck said. “I think our university has a tremendous opportunity.”

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Luck was also asked about a report that surfaced last week, which alleged that WVU had self-reported that it broke NCAA regulations by using too many football coaches on the practice field.

The NCAA was investigating former WVU and current Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, who was linked to similar violations at Michigan. The NCAA wanted to see if he had done the same thing at WVU.

“I am aware of the issue,” Luck said. “I don’t have any detail on it. But we will continue to take NCAA compliance very seriously.”

He said he heard about the “issue” while a member of the WVU Board of Governors. He has since resigned that position.

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Monday’s press conference was held in the Touchdown Terrace, Milan Puskar Stadium at Mountaineer Field (North End Zone).

Luck remembers the opening of the stadium his junior year (1980), when he played for coach Don Nehlen, who was one of several luminaries at Monday’s event.

“It was 30 years ago that we opened new Mountaineer Field,” he said, looking at his old coach. “I still call it new Mountaineer Field. Coach Nehlen had us in the lockerroom, and he gave us our pep talk a little too early.”

He remembered several politicians addressing the team, including then-governor Jay Rockefeller.

“The coup de grace was John Denver flying in by helicopter before the game,” Luck remembered. The late singer sang “Country Roads” before the kickoff.

As noted, there were several luminaries in attendance, including former Athletic Director Leland Byrd as well as basketball coach Bob Huggins, football coach Bill Stewart, women’s basketball coach Mike Carey and women’s soccer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown.

Clements presented Luck with his original No. 12 jersey he wore in the 1981 Peach Bowl, when WVU beat favored Florida 24-7 and a new jersey with his name on the back.