Oliver Luck has been athletic director at WVU for three years.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- By the time West Virginia and Texas play at Mountaineer Field a week from Saturday, Oliver Luck could find himself in the unusual position of being the outgoing athletic director at one of the schools and the AD in waiting at the other.It's not likely to be official by then but if it's going to happen, it could be all but signed and sealed.Multiple reports in Texas have Luck, West Virginia's athletic director, as the front-runner to replace DeLoss Dodds in that position at Texas. That's nothing new. Luck has been considered a prime candidate since Dodds announced his pending retirement - he will step down at the end of August next year - early this month.Now, though, at least one generally-reliable source - the website Orangebloods.com - reports that Luck and others could be interviewed as soon as this week and that Luck is the clear frontrunner. All that stands between him and the job could be a favorable interview with the seven-person advisory committee appointed to recommend a successor to Dodds and then an official stamp of approval from the next meeting of the Texas Board of Regents Nov. 13-14.Orangebloods reports that also under consideration is Arizona State athletic director Steve Patterson, who, like Luck, holds a law degree from Texas. Others who have been approached - including Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick and Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione - have reportedly said they are not interested.Luck, for his part, is remaining typically mum about the situation, much as he did a year ago when he was in the mix for the athletic director's job at Stanford, and refusing to comment.Somewhat tellingly perhaps, though, Luck has not gone out of his way to deny interest in the position as other high-profile candidates have done.
There certainly exists the possibility that other high-profile candidates who wish to remain anonymous could emerge. But according to Orangebloods sources, Luck's name was atop the list submitted by the search firm Korn/Ferry International last week.Why Luck would be interested in the job isn't hard to see.Texas has by far the largest college athletic budget in the nation with more than $163 million in revenues for the fiscal year that ended in 2012. That's roughly double WVU's athletic budget and more than $20 million more than even second-place Ohio State. The school has spent $400 million on facilities improvements alone in the last two decades and has a 20-year, $300 million agreement with ESPN to produce the Longhorn Network.Texas is not, however, without its major issues these days, not the least of which are declining rates of success in their three major sports of football, men's basketball and baseball. The coaches in all three sports - Mack Brown, Rick Barnes and Augie Garrido - are under fire and the new athletic director will have a huge influence on their fates and/or replacements.
There is also a political element involved, as well. The new athletic director will be hired by Texas president Bill Powers and the UT Board of Regents, but there is friction there that has nothing to do with the athletic department.Luck, though, is seen as a candidate that can potentially step in and smooth over some of the friction between the school and its boosters in regard to the turmoil at least in those three major sports. He is appealing, according to Orangebloods sources, because of his CEO approach to athletics, an engaging personality and his ties to Texas as a UT law school grad.He was heavily involved in Houston area professional sports prior to coming to West Virginia - his undergraduate alma mater - and even has a bit of star quality because he was a quarterback with the Houston Oilers and is the father of one of the NFL's brightest young stars, Andrew Luck.Oliver Luck was also recently named one of 13 members of the new college football playoff selection committee and none of that is likely to put off rich Texas boosters.
There are, however, glitches on Luck's resume.He's only been a college athletic director for three years and not all of his moves at WVU have worked out well. Chief among the issues were his handling of the school's media rights and the way he replaced football coach Bill Stewart with Dana Holgorsen. It helps little, either, that Holgorsen's star has faded in the wake of the last two seasons, but Luck signed him to a large contract that, if the school ever wants out of, will be hugely expensive.Still, Luck has had his successes and, it can be argued, can accomplish little more at WVU. He steered the school out of the nightmare that was the Big East implosion and into a conference where the revenue stream was unheard of for WVU. The media rights deal that he started was eventually completed, which is another vast revenue source. And he was instrumental in getting a new baseball stadium project off the ground.Although Dodds' retirement does not take effect until Aug. 31, Texas officials have privately said they would like to have a successor in place by Dec. 1. Dodds' latest contract paid him $700,000 plus incentives a year and he is set to collect a $1 million annuity the day he retires.Luck's latest contract at WVU, signed last October, is through 2017 and pays him $550,000 a year, plus up to $150,000 annually in incentives. In reality, though, his annual salary should he remain on the job through 2017 would average $625,000 per year plus incentives because of two large retention bonuses he would earn - $225,000 in 2015 and $150,000 in 2017.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.