If Oliver Luck does take the athletic director position at the University of Texas, President Clements and the Board of Governors will have an important decision to make. The next AD at West Virginia University will have some big shoes to fill. There is a faction in the Mountaineer fan base that doesn't like anything that Luck has done while at WVU. But as for me and the rest of the Mountaineer faithful, Luck outperformed our expectations. Before going any further, I want to be clear that I don't want him to go. However, I won't have any hard feelings if he does.
Most important to me was the breakup of the "Old Boy Network" that was a hindrance on the growth of the athletic department. Just as important was landing WVU in the Big 12 conference. The hiring of Randy Mazey seems to be his best coaching hire from where we stand at the minute. The coach-in-waiting scenario with Holgorsen and Stewart was flawed. But once the decision was made to take the football program in a new direction, you can't really argue that there was a hotter coach out there than Holgorsen. Luck has overseen the completion of the basketball practice facility, the ground breaking of the new baseball stadium, and improved fan behavior while implementing beer sales at football games. It didn't hurt that Big 12 fans have gone out of their way to welcome us and treat us the way we like to treat our friends. He also had a hand in making a shit ton of money for the university via the sale of tier 3 rights. Mistakes were made along the way, but bold moves are seldom flawless.
If Luck leaves, one of the biggest jobs the new AD will have is to mend fences. Luck had to come in and clean house for lack of a better term. You can't do that without rubbing some people the wrong way. But now that the dust has settled, so to speak, there's some folks that it wouldn't hurt to bring back at least in a limited role. Or if nothing else at least to make them feel welcome again, and welcome to donate again. I don't really know who most of those people would be. But maybe it would be acceptable for John Raese to work with IMG if Luck was no longer the AD. The two biggest names that have come up to replace Luck are Oregon AD Rob Mullens and Cincinnati AD Whit Babcock.
Obviously, Mullens has the higher profile job. He's a native of Morgantown and graduate of WVU. He's also worked at Miami University, Maryland, and Kentucky before landing the AD job at OU. If you want to hear him, here's a link to his appearance on Sportsline last week (h/t abpriddy).
At first blush, you would have to question why he would want to come back to WVU. From the outside looking in, Oregon would seem to be a dream job. With the Nike money and uniform designs flowing in, there's no reason to think the athletic department wants for anything. At the same time, there's usually a catch that goes along with all that money from one source. Maybe having Phil Knight looking over your shoulder all the time isn't the most ideal situation. Mullens is 43, and the biggest question is if he is in a job he wants to retire from or if he has aspirations beyond being the head of the athletic department at his alma mater.
While Mullens would be taking a lateral move at best from Oregon to WVU, Whit Babcock would certainly be taking a step up. Babcock got his master's degree from WVU and spent time in the WVU athletic department before going to Missouri. In his favor, he knows the Big 12 from his time at Missouri. He was able to set all-time highs in fundraising, season ticket sales, and department wide revenue generation while at Missouri. Because he spent time in the WVU athletic department, he would probably be in a good position to mend fences with alumni that were friendly to the previous administration.
There are certainly other options out there for WVU to consider. But Mullens and Babcock seem to be far and away the leading candidates. I would be in favor of extending an offer to both. However, the realist in methinks Babcock is the more likely to make the jump to WVU.