MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Oliver Luck has been accused of being a lot of things.Some of them aren't very complimentary, either.Nearly three years into his tenure as West Virginia's athletic director, Luck has attempted to turn what was once a largely mom-and-pop athletic department into a business. He has his supporters, of course, probably the vast majority of fans. But between modernizing ticket policies, adding beer sales, trying to squeeze out every dime possible and consistently going to Texas and the Southwest for his new coaches, he's obviously rubbed a segment of the base the wrong way.And that's not even mentioning what will certainly be remembered as the signature event of his directorship, breaking from the Big East and moving to the Big 12. As ridiculous as it may seem, there are still those who decry that move, blindly ignoring all facets of reality.
Anyway, back to the point. Because of all of that, Luck has been called a lot of things. Well, here's another he's being called and will be called in the future, and it has to do with another decision that some won't like.He's being called a golfer.Oh, the humanity."I'm not even a golfer,'' Luck said. "Everyone thinks that. I've been accused of being a golfer and all I want to do is be able to go out and play golf.''There is, of course, nothing wrong with being a golfer. Some of my friends are golfers. I used to think I could play the game a little bit.But Luck is being - and perhaps in the future will be - called a golfer as if it was akin to being a thief or a wife beater. And it's because of this:
It seems a virtual certainty that when West Virginia adds the men's sport that will bring the program up to the minimum number required by the Big 12, it will be golf.And that angers track people. And tennis people.Because their sports were the other considered options."We basically looked at the sports we'd dropped [in recent years] as the candidates to add and we're leaning toward men's golf,'' Luck said. "We looked at track and field and we looked at tennis, but golf just seemed to be the most natural fit.''It is for a variety of reasons, Luck said.
For starters, at this stage of the game Luck needs to add a sport that isn't going to be much of a financial burden. Perhaps in the future that will change. Who knows? Maybe in five years or so, when full shares of Big 12 revenue sharing are flowing into Morgantown, finances won't be an obstacle. Maybe the school adds more sports. After all, the reason those three were dropped was largely financial (although with a nod toward Title IX, as well).
"The fact is, golf is cheap,'' Luck said. "I think the NCAA scholarship limit is 4.8. You need one coach. Equipment isn't much of an issue and travel isn't an impediment. Golf teams don't play dual matches. We aren't going to Texas or Oklahoma every week. You generally play in tournaments and there are plenty of those [on the East Coast].''In contrast, tennis involves more travel. There are dual matches. WVU's women's team played 20 dual matches and four tournaments this season. It played five Big 12 schools and five non-conference opponents on the road. Only six Big 12 schools have men's tennis teams.In golf, all nine of the other Big 12 schools have teams and most play a few tournaments in the fall and a handful, maybe six to eight, in the spring. Those tournaments have nothing to do with the league, save for the conference tournament at the end of the year."We looked at what the Big 12 schools were spending on golf and track and tennis, and golf was easily the least expensive,'' Luck said.Track fans, of course, voice most of the complaints, and with good reason. This state produces a rather extraordinary number of track and field athletes given its size. Come out to the state meet this weekend and you'll see three of the best the state has ever produced - Cabell Midland's Jacob Burcham, St. Marys' Maggie Drazba and Buckhannon-Upshur's Emily Godwin. Drazba will run for WVU's women next season, but Godwin is going to North Carolina and Burcham to Oklahoma.
That last one really hurts, of course, because he's going to a Big 12 school. Not that he would have chosen WVU, but it would have been nice if he'd had the chance.Track, though, presents more costs in regard to equipment and coaching. Travel as compared to golf is probably a wash, but this isn't: WVU's track is in awful shape. That should be rectified for the women, of course, but doubling its use would make it mandatory. And that's just another expense."But it's not really golf vs. track. I don't want to make it sound like that,'' Luck said. "I love track, and this state produces some great track athletes. But golf just makes more sense in a lot of ways.''That includes recruitment. This state actually produces some pretty good golfers, so a team could be largely home grown."And it's not like we're going to have to build a golf course,'' Luck said.No. In fact, he's already floated the idea to some pretty good courses that would love to host a college tournament. In Morgantown, both The Pines and Lakeview are quality courses. Right down the road is the Pete Dye course in Bridgeport and across the border north is Nemacolin Woodlands.And chances are, if there were any home matches played at all, it would just be one a year. For the most parts teams travel to those handful of tournaments each year and that's it.The decision on what sport to add hasn't officially been made, and it's not Luck's call, but the university's. There's no rush because the Big 12 isn't demanding that WVU add a sport right away, and Luck figures whatever sport is added won't be fully up and running until 2015-16, allowing plenty of time to hire a coach and recruit a team.And if it is golf that's added, there will be plenty of folks in favor of it. There will also be critics. And the track supporters will have some good arguments and names to call Luck.Just don't call him a golfer.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.