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WVU Made Right Choice With Luck

June 12, 2010
By DOUG HUFF

OLIVER LUCK.

When Moundsville native ED PASTILONG announced, in 2008, that he would be retiring in 2010 as athletics director at West Virginia University, one name came to mind as a successor - Luck.

That fact came true Thursday when one former Mountaineers football quarterback was selected to succeed another ex-WVU signalcaller as the WVU AD.

What is there not to like about this choice by new school president JAMES CLEMENTS, who says Luck was his first choice from the start of the process.

We echo that sentiment because we're not aware of anyone else who brings more to the WVU table, both athletically and academically, than the 50-year-old Luck.

Like Pastilong, he's a former Mountaineers athlete and that has to appeal to those who follow WVU sports. In fact, Luck was the WVU quarterback in the first game played in the current Mountaineer Field in 1980 and was the first signalcaller for retired coach DON NEHLEN, who sings his praises. That endorsement carries some weight but is one of many in Luck's behalf.

Luck, who was a second-round NFL draftee who played five years in the NFL, earned two Academic All-America credits and was a Rhodes Scholar finalist. He also earned a law degree from the University of Texas while a member of the Houston Oilers.

In other words, he truly was a student-athlete. That has a broad-based appeal to many WVU alumni and supporters who follow the athletic program he will be leading.

He came to WVU from famed St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland. When we asked the author of a book on St. Ignatius football about Luck, his response was that he is one of the two most respected football products of a nationally-known program. The other is ex-Yale and NFL quarterback BRIAN DOWLING.

Inquiring journalists don't go wrong when they tap the roots of an individual's background.

Luck's professional background should stand him well in his new role.

After retiring as an NFL player, he worked for the National Football League and ran NFL Europe before returning to the states to become chief executive officer of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, which included the development and management of over $1 billion of pro sports and entertainment venues. Since 2005, he has been president of the Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamos, a team which won two MLS Cup championships in his first two years at the helm.

Dealing with major college athletics shouldn't be too much of a transition for someone with his professional background.

A member of the WVU Board of Governors since 2008, Luck continued his involvement with his alma mater and his new appointment is an extension of that interest.

We have talked with Luck a couple of times in recent years when he would visit the WVU campus for a game or meeting.

I recall speaking to him in 1997 after he was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. And I recall talking to him in the WVU press box during a spring football game a few years ago.

He's a very cordial and low-key individual - much like Pastilong, and is the right choice to continue the expanding, solid athletic program at WVU.

He will replace the longest tenured AD in school history and one who has guided an unmatched period of growth and overall success, both on and off the contest venues, than any other previous Mountaineer athletics director.

The Mountaineer torch has been passed from Pastilong to Luck.

It should be a smooth exchange between former WVU quarterbacks.

JOHN WOODEN.

The death last week of the 99-year-old college basketball legend jump starts our memory bank of the retired UCLA coach who also was a Hall of Fame player at Purdue.

We had three encounters with Wooden - one via telephone and two in person.

In 1969, during Wooden's heyday as UCLA mentor, the Bruins, as well as many other colleges, were recruiting an Ohio Valley scoring whiz named ALLAN HORNYAK from Bellaire St. John's.

In our journalistic zeal, we wanted to get the "inside scoop" on the recruitment. So, we called the Wizard of Westwood at his office in Los Angeles. With a lump in our 26-year-old throat, we asked the legendary coach about Hornyak.

He politely informed us that his assistant coach, DENNY CRUM, later the head coach at Louisville, was recruiting the Bellaire Bomber, and that we should contact him. So we called Crum and continued our media chase on the recruitment of Hornyak, a subject we wrote about in several outlets including the New York Times and Sport magazine.

In 1977, the Atlanta Tipoff Club originated the John Wooden Award for the nation's top college basketball player. As a charter member of the selection board, I had the opportunity to personally meet Wooden at a sportswriters' function in Salisbury, N.C. He was the same, unassuming, polite individual.

Our last meeting with him was at a McDonald's All-America Basketball Game in Pittsburgh, which featured KOBE BRYANT. Both of us have been involved with that event since its origins and we renewed acquaintances at Mellon Arena.

We're not one to be awed by sports-type folks but Mr. Wooden would be atop of any list we might compile in that category.

They don't make them like him anymore.

Enjoy the weekend.

 
 

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