Luck: "Optimism High for Big XII, WVU Athletics in 2014"
Matt Hauswirth, MORGANTOWN -
With two years under its belt in the Big XII Conference, West VirginiaUniversity athletics are becoming more familiar with their counterparts from the Midwest.
But in order to understand where WVU is currently at, one must rewind the clock to July 1st, 2012 – the day Mountaineer sports changed for good.
It was a move that was debated, applauded, questioned, and celebrated. If you think of one word – just think of its antonym – and that was the variation of opinion amongst Mountaineer Nation.
Now two years later, things have settled down, and everyone has grown accustomed to its advantages and disadvantages – including WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck.
“It’s great for us to be in that conference,” Luck said during a recent interview at the WVU Coaches Caravan event in Morgantown. “It’s forcing us to raise our bar and raise what we do – and get better. That’s hard. It doesn’t happen over night. But I think we have a great group of coaches who are working very hard at representing this state and the university as well as they possibly can, with the best student-athletes we can recruit to Morgantown.”
The NCAA’s power five conferences will force any incoming institution to raise its level of play. As plenty of WVU fans are well aware of, the Mountaineers have experienced the highs and the lows of diving into a power conference such as the Big XII.
For example, the WVU Football team went from a 7-6 overall record in 2012, to a 4-8 record in a matter of one season. However the Mountaineer Women’s Basketball program has shown monumental growth, earning a two-seed in the NCAA Tournament along with a Big XII Regular Season Championship this season.
We can keep going. The WVU Men’s Basketball program has seen the rigors of the Big XII. The Mountaineers went from a 13-19 record in 2012-13, to a 17-16 mark in 2013-14. But things were different for Head Coach Nikki Izzo-Brown and the WVU Women’s Soccer team. Izzo-Brown has guided the Mountaineers to consecutive Big XII Regular Season Championships.
The point is some programs will meet the challenge, while others will take their lumps. Regardless of what has happened in the past, Luck admitted it’s not all about one team or another. Simply put, he wants everyone to excel.
“We want to do well. We want to represent the university and the state well. I want all of our sports to do well. I want volleyball to do well. I want the wrestling team to do well. I want the golf team, which is brand new, to do well because it’s all about representing West Virginia. We’re the only school in this state, with 1.8 million people; we can put on our chest ‘West Virginia’. That means something very special to the coaches and our student-athletes. So we want to do well,” Luck said.
If any collegiate program decides to stay the same then they are doing an injustice to its respective university and thousands of loyal fans. Luck understands that, which is why change is on the horizon for West VirginiaUniversity athletics.
The brand new WVU Baseball Stadium is set to be completed in time for the Spring of 2015. Recent proposals for upgrades to the WVU Coliseum and Football Stadium have also been presented and are well underway. Not to mention, the basketball and women’s soccer practice facilities are some of the newest additions to the athletic department.
“There’s a lot going on. We have to keep pace,” Luck said. “If you include the baseball stadium, which of course is money from the state government with our tax income and financing plan, it’s $125 million. That’s a lot of money for Morgantown. We could use twice as much or three times as much to really upgrade our facilities to where they really need to be. So this is sort of the first set of money that’s available. We’re going to focus on the Football Stadium, Coliseum, on the Shell building, and the Soccer Stadium that needs some help. We’re working with the county on a number of other facilities – maybe an AquaticsCenter for our swim team, as well as for the local community.”
Luck makes note of the fact that WVU is nowhere near close to being finished with the improvement of facilities. It’s something that breathes new life into an athletic department, offering assurance and encouragement that the future will be different than the past.
“I’m very optimistic,” Luck added, “I mean, every Fall I’m the eternal optimist that things are going to fall our way. We’ve had some tough breaks in the past. But I think this year is going to be a very good year for WVU athletics.”
Change offers a chance for evolution – an opportunity for growth. West VirginiaUniversity athletics are moving onward and upward as a member of the Big XII Conference, giving Mountaineer fans a sense of promise for a brighter future, which they hope can lead to more victories down the road.