Q&A with Oliver Luck, AD has new focus for West Virginia

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Oliver Luck was one of the most successful quarterbacks in the history of the West Virginia University football program and is now guiding all university athletics as the school's 11th athletic director. He was appointed a little more than two months ago.

Luck, 50, played for the Mountaineers from 1978-81. He was a three-year starter and academic All-American and Rhodes Scholar finalist before playing in the NFL. He also has a law degree and previously worked as Harris County-Houston Sports Authority chief executive officer and as president and general manager of the Houston Dynamo Major League Soccer team.

In his brief time at West Virginia, Luck has hired a new associate athletic director for governance and compliance in the wake of accusations filed by the NCAA against the Mountaineers' football program.

Luck had a question and answer session with the Post-Gazette's Colin Dunlap on Tuesday:

Question: Has there been a day where you've said, "What have I got myself into?"

Answer: No. I was aware of the things going on, having been on the Board of Governors the last two years, they brief us. And, I was aware that the NCAA was looking pretty intently into some violations back to (former football coach) Rich Rodriguez. So, that wasn't a surprise. ... If anything, this makes me more determined to get things right.

Question: Are you worried there is a widening expanse between the general student and the student-athlete?

Answer: Certainly, college athletics has gotten a lot bigger. I think there has been a trend toward that increasing commoditization on the football and basketball side of the student-athlete, because those are the revenue-generating sports. Whether that's TV revenue, or bowl revenue, or whatever it might be, yes, it is a big. Maintaining that balance that the student-athlete remains focused on the complete picture of why they are at a university is a goal of ours.

Question: Say, for example, you are not intimately involved with the football program or a West Virginia fan and you live somewhere in another part of the country, and the only recent coverage you have seen, nationally, is that there have been some transgressions going on with the football program. Does that bother you?

Answer: Everybody is image conscious. We are certainly in a business where image does matter. We are facing the same concerns a professional general manager or president would with his team or club. What's important to us and what we have to keep in mind is that we represent a university, but in some regards, we also represent an entire state. I can't stress that fact enough to our rules compliance people and everyone associated with our department. We are the flagship university. Our student-athletes need to know they represent the coal miner in southern West Virginia, the commuter to Washington D.C. in the eastern Panhandl. We represent the folks up in Wheeling who are closer to Pittsburgh in geography than anything else. That is an extra obligation we have, an additional responsibility and image is very, very important. That is why we need to get it right, all the time.

Question: Would you describe some things you've done, as is the case with Monday's move (to hire a new compliance director) as an internal audit?

Answer: Yes. One of the things that I wanted to do, and begun the process of, was not just looking at our systems and policies, not just looking at things on paper. But I want to take a long look at how those systems and policies and procedures get implemented. You can have a lot of policies that look good in a binder or a folder somewhere on a bookcase. But, if the frontline folks aren't executing them on a daily basis and remembering the ultimate goal, which is to run a competitive department but also do it in a compliant manner, that simply isn't something that is satisfactory. So this audit, if you want to call it that, is going to go on for a while. I don't want to say it is a 60-day review, or a 100-day review, it is going to go on for a while. It will probably be a multiyear review from my perspective. I don't give things a cursory look.

Question: Will you ever tell a coach he needs to win a specific amount of games in a season to keep his job?

Answer: I can see where some athletic directors could say that you have to set that, even if it is an internal goal that doesn't get publicized in the media. I'm not sure it is the best system, because things do happen on any team. I think it is important to observe the entire body of work of a coach. Coaches don't change all that much, so I think you have to take into consideration any extraneous factors and their whole body of work. To tell a coach they need to win a specific amount of games to keep their job might be too simple-minded of a way to do things.

Question: Does football coach Bill Stewart have an undeserved reputation because he doesn't try to make a brand out of himself like so many of the younger college football coaches? Sometimes it seems, to me at least, like because he is such an affable and kind man, people think he has less of a desire to win, which isn't fair to him at all.

Answer: I think I have been around long enough to have seen enough coaches, and I think I can say every coach has a different persona. One of the most amazing coaches in my mind has always been Chuck Noll. I got to know him when I was running NFL Europe. He is the most unassuming, gracious guy. If you sat next to him on an airplane, he'd never tell you he was one of, if not the, most successful coaches in NFL history. What I am getting at is this: Everyone is different, and Bill is who he is and that is who he is. What is important to me is that every coach is sincere. To me, what is important about Bill Stewart is his sincerity; he doesn't put a mask on to try to be someone else.

Question: Do you foresee any imminent contract extension talks with Bill Stewart, whose contract is up after the 2013 season? In extending his deal, he could recruit high school players now and assure them he'd be there for the length of their playing career at West Virginia.

Answer: I'd rather not answer that. But, I will say, when my son [Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck] was being recruited, in the list of things that he was looking for, that wasn't even in the top five of his questions, as to the length of the contract for the coach.

Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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