West Virginia will face Alabama to start 2014 football season
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West Virginia will have another chance to bask in the national spotlight.
The Mountaineers will open the 2014 season with a game against national champion Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta, Ga., game officials announced Thursday.
The game is set for Aug. 30, 2014.
"Playing in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is yet another great way to showcase our football program on a national stage," athletic director Oliver Luck said in a statement. "Playing Alabama will match up two programs with great college football traditions. I have known Nick Saban since my playing days at West Virginia, and I have the utmost respect for him and his program."
Saban leaked the news at a fundraising dinner earlier in the week and, by end of day Thursday, it was official.
Deputy athletic director Mike Parsons said the two programs had been negotiating a contract the past several weeks and that the Mountaineers look forward to the opportunity. West Virginia will net $3 million from the matchup.
"That'll be on national TV, a prime-time game," said Parsons. "Playing a national power like that is quite a challenge. But absolutely, [the whole staff] is excited."
The game will pit teams that never have played each other, but are both expected to be among the nation's top teams heading into next season.
"Playing in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is a great opportunity for our football program and will be an exciting event for our fans," said Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen. "Alabama is one of the top teams in college football history, and it will be a tough challenge for us."
And Saban showed his respect for the Mountaineers saying in a statement:
"I believe that playing an opponent that has the national reputation that West Virginia does, one of the top programs in the country, provides a great challenge for our players and gives us something to look forward to in the offseason."
Alabama is 10-8-1 against Big 12 teams. West Virginia is 24-22-2 all time against Southeastern Conference teams.
West Virginia president James Clements calmed legions of Mountaineer fans Thursday, saying Luck wasn't leaving his athletic director's post.
Luck had been rumored to be a candidate to replace Bob Bowlsby as athletic director at Stanford, but he also seems to emerge as a rumored candidate for just about every high-profile job that becomes available
"Oliver's name pops up for lots of jobs. It did when the Big 12 position opened, [for] the Big East his name has been circulated, Stanford, and whatever is next," said Clements. "I talked with Oliver. Oliver's staying. He's a Mountaineer. He's happy."
Luck, who ushered the program out of the Big East and into the Big 12 in less than two years on the job, has ties to Stanford through his son, Andrew Luck, who just finished his career for the Cardinal. He will also have two daughters on campus this fall.
His accomplishments at West Virginia, along with the fact he was a Rhodes Scholar finalist and his background in sports, likely fuels the notion he is in demand.
It's unclear if Luck spoke to Stanford officials about the job. But his demand, said Clements, required a conversation between the two.
"You know we have a really good relationship. I'm pretty open and honest, and my view on this one was I want to build an organization where people want to come after my team," said Clements, "but I want them to be happy and have an environment here they can be successful in.
"It doesn't surprise me people are coming after Oliver. But he is here and he is happy."
First Published May 18, 2012 12:00 am