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Chuck Landon: By dissing MU, WVU AD pressing his Luck

Nov. 02, 2010 @ 12:44 AM

It's difficult to get a handle on Oliver Luck as West Virginia University's new athletic director.

A) Is he really that arrogant?

B) Is he really that presumptuous?

C) Is he really that undiplomatic?

So far, the answer as it pertains to Marshall University is: D) All of the above.

Luck, for some inexplicable reason, has made a point of proving that in recent weeks.

His comments as guest speaker for the Associated Builders and Contractors organization's "Excellence in Construction" awards dinner on Oct. 27 at the Erickson Alumni Center in Morgantown are a prime example.

Luck obviously never stopped to consider a Marshall supporter might be attending the dinner when he reportedly labeled Marshall football as "irrelevant."

When the Herd supporter, who is a member of a very well known family in Huntington, called Luck out on the "irrelevant" comment, WVU's athletic director reportedly back-pedaled much as he used to do as a Mountaineer star quarterback.

Luck qualified the insulting comment by saying he just meant Marshall was not in a BCS conference.

When the Marshall fan pressed the issue, asking Luck when he was going to do the right thing and extend the Marshall-WVU football series, Luck offered an interesting reply.

He reportedly said a contract had been sitting on Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick's desk for four weeks.

Hamrick vehemently denied Luck's claim.

"I have no contract from WVU," said Hamrick, declining further comment.

The puzzling part of Luck's penchant for downgrading Marshall is he's a very intelligent individual. Luck was a two-time Academic All-American (1980-81), who graduated magna cum laude from WVU in '82.

Why, he even was a finalist to be a Rhodes Scholar.

So, obviously, Luck is smart enough to know better. Yet, he continues to offer self-serving, disparaging commentary about Marshall.

It also happened on Oct. 19 when Luck was the guest speaker for a joint meeting of the Rotary Club of Bluefield and Princeton at the Quality Hotel and Conference Center in Bluefield, W.Va.

During his address, according to an article in the Bluefield Telegraph newspaper, Luck said, "We are the flagship university of the state. With all due respect to our friends in Huntington, we are the university that carries the hopes, the dreams and the images of West Virginia across the country.

"When you put on that uniform, whether you are football player, baseball player, women's soccer player or a gymnast, it doesn't matter. You represent the people in the northern panhandle and all the way down to McDowell County."

The flagship university? Really? Considering WVU's football team has lost consecutive games, is tied for last in a weak Big East conference and faces sanctions for five major NCAA violations, it appears the rudder is broken.

Maybe that's why Luck talks in circles.

The bottom line is 81.1 percent of Marshall's enrollment (11,171 of 13,779) are in-state students. But only 55.5 percent of WVU's main campus student body (16,040 of 29,306) hail from W.Va.

In fact, WVU's current in-state totals actually dropped from 2009 by 182 students. Meanwhile, of Marshall's 1,961 first-time freshmen, 1,443 were state residents (73.6 percent).

Again, flagship university? Neither the rhetoric nor the facts support that claim.

Luck needs to be careful.

A loose cannon has been known to sink a flagship.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827. E-mail him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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