Luck, Clements Excited for Future of WVU Athletics - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Luck, Clements Excited for Future of WVU Athletics

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MORGANTOWN -

Following a day full of press releases and prepared statements, WVU President James P. Clements and Athletic Director Oliver Luck addressed the media on a teleconference Friday evening.

The excitement was evident from both Clements and Luck as well as Big 12 representatives as the two sides discussed their union, set to begin in the 2012-13 season.

"This is an extraordinarily competitive conference and we look forward to being a productive member of this conference," said Luck. "This is an enormous challenge for the student-athletes of West Virginia University, for our coaches, for our administrators, for our fans – but as always, all of us have the utmost confidence in Mountaineer nation to respond and meet this challenge."

Luck put an emphasis on the date July 1, 2012. He stated it twice in his opening remarks. That date has been a subject of some debate and became a major subject of the call due to the fact that the Big East has made its intentions to hold onto WVU until 2014 evident.

Luck and Clements were clear they intend to leave the Big East in 2012.

It is written in the league's bylaws that any institution leaving for another conference would remain with the Big East for 27 months before making the actual departure. Clements is confident both sides will ultimately work out a way around that rule and expedite the process to join the Big 12.

"Our intent is clearly July 1, we'll be a member of the Big 12," said Clements. "Our team and their team are in discussions about how we make that happen."

Clements spoke with Big East Commissioner John Marinatto Friday morning to relay the school's intentions and he confirmed that West Virginia has already made the first of two $2.5 million payments toward the conference's exit fee.

WVU would pay the second installment once it officially begins participation in the Big 12.

So many changes have been made within the Mountaineers athletic department since Oliver Luck returned to his alma mater to serve as its athletic director, but this is certainly the one with the widest scope and impact.

He insists, however, that there was no master plan when he first took over to move WVU to a conference other than its current affiliation in the Big East. Recent changes within the league forced his hand to take action in the best interest of the University.

"When Pitt and Syracuse made the decision to leave the Big East and join another conference, I think all the remaining Big East schools really had to take a step back and think about what was best for the specific university," said Luck.

This timeline intersects with what Big 12 Interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas laid out as far as his league's interest in WVU. Neinas claims the Mountaineers showed up in the Big 12's radar when Texas A&M announced it would leave for the SEC.

Throughout the process, the Big 12 remained interested in what Luck's department had to offer and what Clements' university could bring to the table.

"Their record speaks for itself. I believe the Mountaineers have been to nine consecutive bowl games, they've been in six out of the last seven NCAA tournaments including the Final Four," said Neinas. "I know something about West Virginia. It's a beautiful part of the country and as I say, they are very, very competitive, they bring a strong program into the Big 12 and I think that this only helps the Big 12 look toward the future."

Still, earlier in the week it looked as though no matter how much reverence Neinas held for West Virginia, the league may have wavered on its commitment to adding its flagship university.

Despite reports that the holdup was the result of consideration for the University of Louisville rather than WVU, Neinas says the reason for the delay was something else entirely.

"We were moving forward and we came across the fact that if we were to add a new member and the University of Missouri for some reason either remained or delayed their departure, we would have to look at having an 11 member conference," said Neinas. "That is why we wound up having additional telephone calls to make certain that we could accommodate, if necessary, an 11th team."

Through the turbulent week, Luck and those in his corner kept their hopes high that the end result would be what they wanted for the University.

"We felt very confident and comfortable with our position and where we were," said Luck. "I wouldn't be completely honest with you if I didn't say that there was a little bit of nervousness, but I think ultimately, at the end of the day, we felt very comfortable with working with Chuck and the process and we're just glad it's been finalized."

The changes in store for WVU extend beyond conference sponsorship and scheduling, as some Mountaineers programs do not compete in the Big East and others (men's soccer and rifle) are not offered in the Big 12.

"We'll look at all of the Big 12 offerings and sports that they offer and schools that participate," said Luck. "Certainly the intent is to participate in as many sports as we can being now sponsored by the Big 12."

West Virginia's future is beginning to take shape. No longer will fans or anyone associated with the University wake in the morning wondering if the Mountaineers will be left on the outside looking in as other schools find solid footing in conference realignment.

WVU has a new home, it just so happens to be hundreds of miles away.

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