The Smoking Musket has learned West Virginia University will announce at a press conference later this afternoon that current Athletic Director Oliver Luck plans to step down at the end of 2011 to be replaced by current head football coach emeritus Bill Stewart. The change may come as a surprise to many Mountaineer faithful, who have come to view Luck as an athletic messiah, primed to lead WVU to its first national championship in a major sport, but to university president James Clements, the move has been in the works for some time now.
"Eddie Pastilong and I went out to happy hour a couple weeks ago for St. Patrick's day and it turned into one of those all-night affairs." Clements told a source close to the situation. "We started at Kegler's reminiscing about the golden age of WVU sports over dinner and a couple Irish Car Bombs and by the time we were shooting Jameson at Chic-n-Bones at 2:30 in the morning, we had decided that Ollie just isn't leading us in the direction we want to go as a university and that Stew has what it takes to elevate WVU athletics to its rightful place as a member of the NCAA's elite."
Clement's assessment is not as far afield as one might think at first glance. Since Luck took over as the full-time Athletic Director on June 9, 2010, WVU has underachieved significantly in the most high-profile sports. The men's basketball team, coming off a 31-7 season and a Final Four appearance, slipped to 21-12 and was inexplicably bounced in the second round of the tournament by a 5-seed. The women's team similarly floundered, regressing from a 29-6 record and appearance in the second round of the NCAA tournament to a 24-10 record in 2011 capped by a blowout at the hands of Baylor in the second round of this year's tournament. Football remained stagnant at 9-4 and the baseball team...well, the baseball team always sucks so that's no real surprise.
In addition to the return to mediocrity on the field, Luck will also be the first WVU AD to have a major sport admit to major NCAA infractions under his watch. The fact that Luck plans to admit to the violations and throw WVU to the mercy of the NCAA compliance division was not lost on Clements: "Look, if you're going to cheat, you need to do a better job hiding it, and you better make sure you win. Not only did the cheating not help us on the field, but once we got caught, we simply threw our hands up and surrendered. I've been looking at what schools like Ohio State, Auburn, and Kentucky do in the cheating department and I think we need to start modeling ourselves after them. Not only do they win, but when faced with NCAA allegations, they fight tooth and nail. That's the recipe for success."
When asked about the decision to hire Stewart, who couldn't even win 10 games with the best rushing quarterback in NCAA history in a depleted Big East Conference, Clements was adamant that he made the right decision. "I called up Mike Garrison, who obviously has a lot of experience and success in fielding quality athletic teams, and sought his advice. He was actually at The Red Carpet and couldn't talk when I called him, but when he texted me at about 1:45 and said 'Stewie's th guy u wnat...#winning since 2007,' I knew I had the man for the job without having to waste valuable drinking time trying to interview candidates from other schools."
Clements was also unconcerned about the perceived indiscretion of hiring an Athletic Director at 2:30 in the morning after a night of drinking. "That's the way things have always been done around here," he quipped, "and it's seemed to work out so far."
Stewart couldn't be reached for comment, but issued this statement through his spokesman, Jeff Mullen: