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Luck discusses MU-WVU

Luck
Jun. 27, 2012 @ 11:58 PM

HUNTINGTON -- West Virginia University athletic director Oliver Luck was all smiles Tuesday at the 21 Club at the Frederick Building as he spoke of the anticipation for the 2012 football season.

That season, WVU's first as a member of the Big 12, gets under way on Sept. 1, 2012 when the Mountaineers host Marshall in the final installment of the Friends of Coal Bowl.

While the series has not been renewed to run annually, Luck said it is likely for the teams to meet again in the future.

"I see us down the road playing Marshall at some point," Luck said. "When that is? Who knows? It could be five years from now. It could be 20 years from now. We have to figure out how we do our non-conference going forward.

"We get the same question about (scheduling) Pitt, Virginia Tech and other natural rivals that we used to play."

While talking about the prospects of future meetings between the Mountain State's two NCAA Division I football teams, Luck said it would likely hinge on the new playoff proposal and the role that strength of schedule plays in fulfilling the format.

Ironically, as he was speaking Tuesday at 21 Club in Huntington, NCAA presidents were approving a plan for a four-team playoff that essentially bolsters the Mountaineers' move to the Big 12 Conference.

The NCAA's presidential oversight committee also approved the creation of a selection committee that will rank teams to play in the playoff. The criteria used by those teams will include win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results and whether a team is a conference champion.

Tuesday's decision announcing strength of schedule as part of the criteria could play a big factor in whether Marshall and West Virginia ever renew acquaintances on the football field again.

"Doc's a friend of mine and former teammate and he's done a great job," Luck said about Marshall head coach Doc Holliday. "Marshall's a formidable team, there's no question about that. One of the things we have to see is does strength of schedule really matter and if so, how do you do that in your non-conference knowing the conference games we are going to have.

"Right now, six of the 10 Big 12 teams are ranked in the top 25 -- us included -- so that's a pretty tough schedule. There's a lot to still figure out, a lot of unknowns that make it difficult to make any real commitments."

The new plan approved Tuesday will have a four-team playoff that will start in 2014.

In terms of timing, things couldn't look any better for West Virginia, which will officially join the Big 12 and leave the Big East on Sunday.

Tuesday's announcement also proclaimed that there will be six major bowls -- three of which are called "contract bowls" and have conference tie-ins and three of which are called "access bowls."

The Big 12 is tied to the Champions Bowl, one of the three contract bowls. That bowl will match the Big 12 against the Southeastern Conference.

"The key thing, ultimately, is that we are in a conference that has the ability to produce a semifinalist and a finalist," Luck said. "Given all of the changes that have taken place, I'm not sure that is going to be the case with our previous affiliation."

Luck's comments were spot-on regarding the Big East, which is no longer guaranteed a spot in one of the six major bowls.

Also, the term "automatic qualifier" will dissolve resulting in an open race to the finish for all teams.

That open race also benefits West Virginia in that the strength-of-schedule for the Big 12 overall will be extremely strong, given the fact that the Big 12 annually has four to five teams in the Top 25 at season's end.

And with Conference USA losing some of its top contenders because of realignment, the Mountaineers' quest for a national championship will likely not include a battle against Marshall to determine a state champion for the foreseeable future.

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