Luck’s choices best financially for WVU
Published: Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 00:03
If there's one thing West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck has proven in his eight months since taking over, it's that he's not afraid to do what's right.
Since Luck was hired in June 2010, he has done more than I had expected to change the culture of the Athletic Department. He hired two new head coaches for non-revenue sports teams (volleyball coach Jill Kramer and tennis coach Tina Samara), added multiple assistant coach positions for non-revenue sports, drastically changed the future of the football team, is restructuring the academic advising program and has turned the 14-time national champion rifle team into a fully-funded program.
Some fans griped when Luck made the final decision to charge $20 for parking at the WVU Coliseum during men's basketball games this season. While Luck took full responsibility for the late notice of the change, which occurred just two days before the first home game, he said he received negative e-mails from just two or three fans.
In addition, he said the Athletic Department made around $140,000 from the parking change.
Furthermore, to generate additional revenue, Luck made the decision to raise ticket prices for the Blue-Gold Spring Game to $10. In the past, the revenue generated from the $5 tickets were given directly to WVU Children's Hospital. This year, a portion of the $10 ticket will go to the Children's Hospital, but the Athletic Department will also be making a profit from the game for the first time.
Luck's reasoning is simple –other schools do it.
Luck is from the same school of thought as WVU President James P. Clements. Both believe in comparing WVU to its peer institutions and setting long-term goals.
"Any time you change anything, people get upset," Luck said. "No matter what it is, basketball parking or the Spring Game, what we have to do is look at our peer institutions."
When discussing and researching opportunities to become more lucrative, Luck went to schools like Connecticut, Louisville, Maryland, Ohio State and Virginia Tech to find options.
"Part of it is looking around to see what our competitors are doing. We certainly cannot afford to fall back in generating revenue, because the free market is alive and well in college athletics," Luck said. "We've got to maintain our competitiveness. Part of that is generating funds to pay for everything."
The reality is that for many years WVU's Athletic Department has failed to take advantage of money-making opportunities. And, with it receiving little money from the state, that wasn't exactly the most economically responsible decision despite staying in the black.
With confusing and ever-changing economics surrounding the country – and more specifically athletic departments – it's crucial to continue to make a profit.
Luck has made a statement without standing in front of a podium, a microphone and a camera. West Virginia's Athletic Department will be a well-oiled, money-making, championship-winning program under his vision and leadership.
There are additional moves that need to be made to continue to improve WVU's Athletic Department. A small number of nonrevenue programs aren't competing on the highest level, something Luck has said is a goal of his, need changes at the top. There are facilities updates that need to be made. And, WVU struggles to keep up with its peer institutions in terms of number of sports offered.
As most athletic department's across the country are fearing for their lives as they lose more and more money each year, Luck has made decisions to help make WVU more financially stable in the future.
A businessman would be proud. So should West Virginia fans – even if they have to pay a few extra bucks here and there.
It's only going to help support the student-athletes you cheer for night in and night out, whether on the football field, basketball court, soccer pitch or wrestling mat.