Oliver Luck can’t be accused of being slow to make moves. Good moves, bad moves, depending on whom you talk to, Luck is making both. Just a little more than a year into his tenure as the West Virginia University athletics director, Luck has shown that he doesn’t care what people think or say about the job he is doing, or how he does it.
We have hashed and rehashed the way Luck handled the removal of Bill Stewart as the head football coach at West Virginia. We may never know just what decisions in that debacle were indeed Luck’s first choice, or how Luck’s decisions may have been compromised to appease others in the chain of command.
For instance, when Luck made the announcement that Stewart would be retained as head coach for a season and then be replaced by Dana Holgorsen who Luck brought in as a “head coach in waiting,” eyes rolled and heads were scratched. Logic would suggest that plan was one Luck may have had to make a little bit of a compromise on.
It seemed like a bad idea with little or no chance of success. Luck tried to sell the idea saying that Stewart could be valuable in helping Holgorsen become acclimated to the WVU program. Some people bought the idea, but even most of them had to remain skeptical. We don’t know why exactly, but the head coach in waiting was a failure. Stewart is gone from the program with no explanation and Holgorsen is now the head coach.
Luck also has successfully instituted a policy that will permit the sale of beer at home games beginning this fall. That suggestion was widely criticized, but the measure won approval from the Board of Governors and beer will be sold. Halftime exit and reentry will become a thing of the past.
In any event, Luck made those decisions and has had to defend them ever since although most of the time he doesn’t actually offer too much in the way of an explanation. He will deftly answer questions which leaves us still very much in the dark.
Last week an announcement was made that the 2013 WVU-Maryland game, a home game for the Terps, had been moved to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. That was a decision many WVU fans rallied around.
Why not? Going to Byrd Stadium and getting poor seats is not always a pleasant day. Going to Baltimore to play in an NFL venue is a lot more appealing. It is almost like a mini-bowl game with the opportunity of getting a room in the Inner Harbor and walking to the game, restaurants and numerous other attractions for a few days.
Fast-forward to Monday morning and a report in the Charleston Daily Mail stating that WVU has arraigned for a home game with James Madison, scheduled for September 15, 2012, to be moved to FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. The message boards went crazy with this news. It’s one thing to schedule a marquee game at an attractive neutral site, but it is entirely another when you take a home game and move it 200 miles east. Even worse to do so for a Division 1AA opponent.
At the time this column was penned no official announcement had been made. It is safe to assume that Luck’s office has been bombarded with inquiries as to just what he is thinking. His answer will be interesting. One explanation floated by Mike Casazza, the author of the Daily Mail report, is it is a financial decision. According to his sources WVU will receive as much as they would typically gross for a home game, plus West Virginia will not have to pay the $350K guarantee to JMU.
Take that for what it’s worth, which at this point may be just speculation, but that will not appease Morgantown merchants who will be missing the income of a football weekend. Many season ticket holders will cry foul as well.
If this game does happen the reasons should be interesting. There are some who give Luck credit for thinking outside the box and suggest this decision is part of a bigger plan, not just a pay day.
What bigger plan? Well, chances are when this game is announced there will be no elaborate explanation from Luck, but conference expansion is an on going topic as is the Big East’s negotiations of a new TV contract. ESPN has grudgingly accepted the fact that the WVU brand in Pittsburgh is as strong as Pitts’ is. Is Luck trying to prove the WVU brand in the D.C. area is stronger than the networks realize?
Perhaps. There has been lots of name calling of Luck lately, because he is putting his decisions out there, decisions that aren’t making sense to a lot of loyalists. For now, I am just waiting to see where he is driving the bus. He has always been one of the best and brightest in his endeavors. That is good enough for now. Luck having to go into detail of his every move will only bog down the progress. You know the proper people are in the know and on board.