Bad day for Luck, good day for WVU
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There's a very good chance Tuesday wasn't a particularly happy day for West Virginia University athletic director Oliver Luck.
Despite his refusal to comment, all signs said he was more than interested in taking the same position at filthy rich University of Texas. Reports said he interviewed for the job.
According to various stories from the Lone Star State, Luck was first a top candidate. Then he was a finalist. Then he was the front runner. Finally, over the weekend, he was "the last man" standing.
Except that he was not. On Tuesday, Arizona State athletic director Steve Patterson was named as the new Texas AD.
Apparently, Patterson blew away the search committee with his interview. Also, his resume is very similar to that of Luck. Patterson got the ball rolling on many large projects in Tempe, as Luck has in Morgantown. While Luck graduated from the Texas law school, Patterson did as well - in addition to receiving his undergraduate degree there.
What might have been most telling, however, was this comment from Texas president Bill Powers. After pointing to Patterson's work at Arizona State and in the NBA, he said that "far more important, he's run a winning program at Arizona State that places students first and is committed to their lifelong success."
Note the word "winning." Arizona State's football team is a Top 25 team with a 6-2 record that leads the Pac-12 South division. Patterson hired Todd Graham. West Virginia is 4-5, in seventh place within the Big 12 and has lost 11 of its last 17 football games. Luck hired Dana Holgorsen. In addition, the Mountaineer basketball team was 13-19 last season.
The feeling from here is Patterson was perceived as an easier sell to the entire Texas fan base, despite Luck's visibility and popularity in that area. What can you criticize about Patterson?
But here's the deal: While it might have been a bad day for Luck, it was a very good day for WVU.
The school will not only keep a sharp mind, but one of the nation's most respected athletic directors. When Luck makes a call, college athletic administrators take it.
Bash Luck's hire of Holgorsen if you wish, but no one has done more for WVU in the athletic arena in such a short time.
I'll go a step beyond that. Few, if any, could have moved WVU from the sinking Big East into the wealthy lifeboat that is the Big 12. It was Luck's ties into Texas, his legal background and CEO handling of the affair that saved WVU's keister from the American Athletic Conference and the abject poverty within.
To point solely at the Holgorsen hire is myopic. In addition to the Save of the Century, Luck has made nice coaching hires. He's overseeing the progress of major capital projects, like the basketball practice facility and women's soccer complex. He somehow got a new baseball park in the works.
WVU is fortunate to have Oliver Luck. If you think differently, consider all the candidates in the world Texas could have considered. Luck was one of two at the end.
The man has contacts the world over. He was a Rhodes Scholar finalist who graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He has that Texas law degree, which feathers in nicely with college athletics these days. Also, he has the ultimate college background as, first, a WVU quarterback and, second, an NFL quarterback.
So, let's see. In regard to those credentials, there's USC's Pat Haden and WVU's Luck. Am I missing anyone? (We'll skip Luck's 1996 side job as President and CEO of NFL Europe.)
You get my point. There have been other fine athletic directors in Morgantown. (Luck, by the way, isn't even the most visible. That was Fred Schaus, who coached Jerry West at WVU then in Los Angeles with the Lakers. Guided the Lakers to four NBA Finals.)
No athletic director, however, has ever hit Morgantown with the credentials, contacts, name recognition, work ethic and love for WVU as Luck.
It might have been a bad day for the Mountaineer AD. But it was a very good day for his school's fans.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.