There is one absolute, undeniable, inarguable fact about intercollegiate athletics that must be stated to keep in the back of your mind for the duration of this article: college athletics is all about the money. If you disagree in any way with that statement, you simply have not been paying attention to the countless, countless, countless words printed defending it. If you can take the fact that college sports is entirely about money, then we can continue and this debate will be unfathomably one-sided.
The debate in which I'm referring to is the one surrounding the Director of Athletics at West Virginia University, Oliver Luck. The reason why this conversation has come up is that the rumor mill recently has been churning out mutterings of Luck leaving WVU to replace DeLoss Dodds as the new AD at Texas. There have been a vocal faction of the Mountaineer faithful that would be "glad to see him go." I can come to only one conclusion why anyone would want Oliver Luck to leave WVU for Texas: they are a UT fan and would like to see the Longhorns win a BCS National Championship in the next five years. All assuming, of course, that this person still holds that unequivocal fact we discussed earlier to still hold true. For any Mountaineer fan to want Oliver Luck to leave his position simply means they have not been paying attention. Likewise, for any Mountaineer fan to miss that Luck not only has been on a Sherman's March since the day he step foot into Morgantown, but also has literally done everything in his power to better WVU's stance in the college sports landscape, they have been daydreaming for three years. Let's count the ways, By-Godders.
1. Staff Decisions
While technically the hire of Holgorsen can still be debated, it's hard to argue that there needed to be changes when Luck took the helm in 2010. WVU Football had major problems that required attention and he went out and got the hottest offensive coordinator in college football. After all hell broke loose, Holgorsen took control and looked the part especially after a respectable bout with LSU and having the team fire on all cylinders against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. While the coach-in-waiting move can definitely be looked at as a misstep, Holgorsen was a great hire on paper at the time and certainly has his moments of genius.
Another major change that Oliver Luck has made to WVU staff was the decision to dismiss baseball coach Greg Van Zant. While his popularity at WVU was iffy at best, there wasn't much attention on the program as a whole. With the move to the Big XII (something that I will dive into shortly), the Mountaineer baseball team needed a change, and that change was Randy Mazey. Going into the Big XII inaugural season, no one gave this team a chance in hell. Mazey proved them all wrong.
2. Conference Realignment / Scheduling
I remember being at the WVU/Maryland game in College Park when it was announced that Pitt and Syracuse were leaving the Big East. We all knew that, even with TCU joining, this conference was a sinking ship. While I have absolutely nothing to back this claim, you would be hard pressed to tell me that Oliver Luck's connections to Texas (and Houston in general for that matter) had nothing to do with WVU moving to the Big XII. It needs to be said that this jump has put great stress on the other sports in the athletic department, but did we really want to end up like UConn? Yes, if WVU was in the AAC, we would be playing teams in our geographical area, but we wouldn't be playing anyone with clout and to nonexistent national media coverage. Now, the Mountaineers are constantly in the conversation beside Texas and Oklahoma, two of this country's most historic college sports programs of all time, in a completely stable conference. When the Mountaineers get a Big XII win (or even a close loss at OU), it is deserved and respected. Do we expect to be happy with a .500 program for the next five years? Hell no. We want progress. When progress does come and WVU proves to be competitive week in and week out in the Big XII, we will know this program is competitive on a national scale. That's the goal of the Big XII move and it's up to recruiting to make it pay out in spades against a tough conference slate.
However, your conference schedule is only a portion of the equation. Before, WVU was playing Marshall, East Carolina, Colorado, Bowling Green, Villanova, and Norfolk State just to name a few recent ones off the top of my head. Luck has completely taken Marshall of the schedule (a game that has absolutely zero benefit for the program) and has replaced it with Maryland, BYU in FedEx in 2016, Virginia Tech in 2021, Penn State in 2023, and kicking off next year against the best college football program for the past four years in prime time, the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Georgia Dome. A huge con of realignment was losing some of our rivalry games and Luck is running wild renewing them. Nothing else needs to be said about this other than it is awesome.
While the whole basketball facility is pretty sick, I would be remiss to not mention the other addition of that side of the city while driving by the Coliseum. These facilities improvements, along with the weight room renovation, have been major steps forward in building the attraction of WVU toward future signees. Plans have also come up featuring a brand new baseball stadium that will incorporate both WVU and a minor league club. Infrastructure has been at the forefront over the past three years for Luck, but a major topic has also been the changes of concession at Milan Puskar Stadium.
The decision to distribute alcohol in the stadium is trending right now in college sports. Hell, Minnesota has been considering it recently and guess who the local news used as an example bringing in $520,000 our first year. We are being admired by B1G schools and people still want to complain about it. Not only that, this year, WVU has incorporated new food options this year including "gourmet hot dogs" and two healthy food carts. BEER, GOURMET HOT DOGS, AND HEALTHY FOOD CARTS. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?
That's actually a serious question. After hearing all of the improvements WVU Sports have had over the past three years including a more stable conference, staff, and financial foothold, what else do you want the man to do? Keep in mind, he's also been named to the College Playoff Committee, was able to cash in on the Tier 3 Rights (even though he got booted out of the room), and half of him created a Peyton Manning replacement that is first in the AFC South and 4th in Total QBR for the NFL. Remember, if college athletics is all about money, $4.2 million at the end of the day is a great success especially in a small market. If Texas wants Oliver Luck, it is not just because he got his law degree from there, but because he's the best they can get - and they can get anybody they want.