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Will Oliver Luck Put His Stamp On The WVU Program? Does He Need To?

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As everyone knows, Oliver Luck is the new athletic director at West Virginia University.  It's the first change in leadership of the state's flagship athletic program since 1987, when Ed Pastilong first took the reigns.

Luck comes to WVU with a near flawless pedigree: WVU starting quarterback, NFL player, lawyer, NFL executive (including NFL Europe CEO), Sports Authority of Houston Chief, and Houston Dynamo President.  It's a varied, yet storied athletic career.  Along with the fact that he was highly coveted by WVU administrators, he enters WVU with a strong mandate for his brand of leadership.

So, what does all that mean for WVU as we know it?  It  means that the simple answer to the second question posed above is, "no."  Luck is accomplished enough, and I believe secure enough in those accomplishments, not to need to change coaches for change's sake.  Sometimes, those types of changes can occur with disastrous results.  Look no further than Steve Pederson's tenure at Nebraska.  With that in mind, Luck will only act if action is truly needed.

Which brings us to the original question: will Oliver Luck put his stamp on the WVU program?  That question doesn't have so simple an answer.

Obviously, I'm talking about the job situation of Bill Stewart (what, you thought he was going to fire Huggins?).  In his short time on the job, Luck has already gone on the record by, well, not going on the record pertaining to a contract extension for Stewart.  While not exactly a vote of no-confidence in Stewart, it's not the most glowing endorsement, either.  It's clear to me that Luck expects more from the WVU football program.  But how does he go about getting that "more?"

Bill Stewart is a loyal guy, probably too a fault.  So was Ed Pastilong, which is why coaches at WVU generally have such long tenures.  Now, loyalty is great, but sometimes change is needed.  I believe if it were up to Stewart, every assistant coach would be back next season.  And if Pastilong were still in charge, I believe that's exactly what would happen.  Of course, Pastilong isn't in charge anymore, it's Luck's show now, and while his AD track record is short, his penchant for getting results is not.

Barring a complete collapse this season -- something that is highly unlikely given the complete and total suck that is the Big East Conference -- Stewart will be back next season.  While many fans might want that not to be true, I find it highly unlikely that any other scenario plays out.  But I find it just as unlikely that Stewart gets a contract extension either, even if a BCS bid comes our way.  This is pure conjecture, but Luck must have been concerned with both Stewart's contract length and the existence of a hefty buyout, as most WVU fans were when it was first announced.  Both issues seemed near unconscionable, and an extension at this point would just compound the problem.

Still, action of some type seems likely.  It's no secret that WVU's offense, and more specifically the offensive line, have been severe weak points in the three years of Stewart's tenure.  Luck, as a football man himself -- someone who admits he still watches game tape -- must be acutely aware of this problem.  Hell, anyone with a ticket to the game, TV, radio (to hear Sportsline), or an internet connection has to know; so, pretty much everyone.  But what's to be done?

Well, if you're not going to fire Stewart, which as I've said before isn't going to happen, then you look to his assistants.  This is something, as a loyal man, Stewart will resist, but with the clout Luck brings to the table, I don't think it's going to be a mere suggestion for change. It will be a decree: "them, or you."  Even for a man of Stewart's loyalty, that's an easy decision to make.

So, who gets the ax?  Odds on favorite is Dave Johnson, much maligned offensive line coach.  I would put the odds of his coaching elsewhere next year at below even money.  That generally leaves Jeff Mullen, everyone's favorite offensive coordinator.  It won't make a lot of people happy, but the odds of him being replaced are much longer.  It's probably about 50/50 at this point.  If the offense shows some, or any really, improvement, then Mullen may buy himself one more year.  If there's more stagnation, which is far from out of the question, then Mullen's seat gets hotter and hotter. 

If Mullen stays on, then it likely gives Stewart a solid two more years to get things improved.  If Mullen is fired, however, then Stewart's job becomes much more at risk.  Even with a new offensive coordinator, I think Luck will only give Stewart one more year to turn the offense around.  Not ideal circumstances, but that's the likely reality.

Luck has spoken enthusiastically about moving forward with aggressive capital building projects, which takes a lot of money.  Stagnation is the key enemy to raising large amounts of money, and it's something Luck must avoid at all costs.  And while the status quo has been a popular thing in years past at WVU, that's the last thing Oliver Luck seems interested in.  And if that means serious changes in staff, so be it.