Thursday, October 4, 2012
Q&A: West Virginia AD Oliver Luck
By William Wilkerson
AUSTIN, Texas -- To say Oliver Luck has a lot going on right now would be an understatement.
There’s his day job as West Virginia’s athletic director, which, honestly, covers all hours of every day. Especially right now as he is tasked with the responsibility of making the Mountaineers transition into the Big 12 as seamless as possible.
Then there are his duties as a father to his four kids, one of whom is Andrew Luck, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL draft and starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts.
A former quarterback in his own right, one that made a name for himself at West Virginia and then with the Houston Oilers, Luck is also a member of the NFL’s Player Safety Advisory Panel.
Oliver Luck was named the West Virginia athletic director in 2010.
He’s a busy man, all right, but Luck, who also holds a law degree from Texas, took the time to talk to HornsNation in anticipation of this week’s clash of new Big 12 foes:
HornsNation: First things first, as a former quarterback, what were your thoughts watching Geno Smith last week against Baylor?
Oliver Luck: He did a phenomenal job. He’s an excellent player and a very smart kid, very mature. He’s been everything that we expected as a senior. It’s a delight for an old quarterback like me to watch him perform so well. He deserves all the accolades he’s getting.
HN: You threw for a then-school record 19 touchdowns your junior season at West Virginia, and Smith threw eight against the Bears. Do you look at that and laugh at how progressive offenses have become?
Luck: There’s been a steady increase over the last four years in offensive production in the way coaches are coaching, the opportunities kids have in high school to do 7-on-7. The schemes that exist now at the college level are, quite honestly, schemes that we had in the NFL 25 years ago. There is a number of different reasons from the work the kids put in the weight room, to the camps and clinics kids attend to 7-on-7. They are throwing 10,000 more passes than guys from previous generations. There are a lot of reasons you are seeing this offensive explosion. My gut tells me this isn’t the ceiling. We will continue to see this as we go to the next phase of college football.
HN: Could you have picked a better time to be strolling into Austin to play the Longhorns after a performance like that, at least from an offensive standpoint?
Luck: Anytime you go down to Austin I think it is a special time with this being our first season in the Big 12, our first road game and the opportunity to play an undefeated Texas team in front of 100,000-plus people. Its special regardless of the time. But this is when the schedule makers put it together. I know our kids and coaches are looking forward to it. It’s an impressive atmosphere. But I’ve got all the confidence that we will be as prepared as we can be to take on a very talented Texas team.”
HN: Does this game hold anymore weight given that it is a conference game against a school that you earned a law degree from, which happens to be in the state that you called home for so many years?
Luck: It’s a special game because I think the University is a special place. They do a tremendous job as the flagship school for a great state, with tremendous football tradition. Having said that, I’m not playing in the game. I’m just a spectator. All of my rooting allegiances will be with the Mountaineers. Like the millions of fans out there, I am excited to see what should be a very intriguing football game.
HN: From what you’ve seen and heard, how excited is the Mountaineers fan base to start up a rivalry with Texas this week?
Luck: Our fan base has been at an all-time level of excitement I’d say since the announcement was made about the move to the Big 12. Really since that point our fan base has been off the charts with their excitement. We’ve sold out all seven of our home games. I’ve talked to a bunch of the old-timers going back to the Sam Huff days when we had some pretty good teams, won a couple of Sugar Bowls. People say they can’t remember anything like this offseason. It’s not just this week or last week but going back to November. It’s great to see the excitement. We don’t have much history with any of the Big 12 schools. It’s a very exciting opportunity. Our folks are at an all-time high with the buzz for this season.
HN: In speaking with you before, you have high hopes for what WVU can do from a recruiting standpoint in the state of Texas now that you are in the Big 12. Have you seen any positive effects from that already or do you expect it to take a while to see results?
Luck: It will take a little bit of time, but we already have a handful of Texans on our roster. We are a little unique in how we can recruit. West Virginia is a relatively small state. There are only a handful of football players that come out of West Virginia. For decades we’ve had a good pipeline going down to Florida. We’ve always had talented kids coming out of Maryland, Baltimore, D.C., Virginia, New Jersey, eastern Ohio, Columbus, Akron. Texas will take on a much more important roll going forward but I don’t think, in any way, will it lessen the importance of places like South Florida or Maryland, the D.C. area., because that’s been a traditional hotspot for us. Texas will be a nice complement to what we are doing, but I don’t see it replacing where we’ve historically gotten our players from.
HN: How smoothly, or otherwise, would you say the first few months of being a member of the Big 12 have been for West Virginia, and particularly you as the athletic director?
Luck: It’s gone very well. The league staff is very competent. They’ve made it very easy for us to let us find our footing in the Big 12. We are doing fine. The logistics are relatively simple. A lot of the guys on our football coaching staff have been in the Big 12 for years. They know the lay of the land if you will. The other coaches that may not know are learning. What we’ve seen overall so far is an athletic program that is in a very good position to be very competitive with some strong programs across the board in the Big 12.
HN: How do you expect your athletic department to benefit from the Big 12’s media rights deal with ABC/ESPN and Fox that will be worth $20 million per school?
Luck: Simply put, the payoff is much bigger than our previous conference. It’s an opportunity to increase what we pay our coaches. We want to keep all the coaches we have to provide better opportunities for our student-athletes, with the way the kids travel, to the way they eat. I think it will allow us to upgrade or facilities. We have some good facilities but I think if you go on any campus you will find a long to-do list of things you would like to change. But it goes beyond money. All of a sudden with the ESPN/Fox broadcast we are rolling on a much bigger platform than in the past. That’s encouraging because all an athletic director wants to do is crate a platform for his student-athletes to shine. This platform that the Big 12 is offering is exponentially greater than what we had previously. It’s very gratifying.