PARKERSBURG -Little did anybody know when the Mountaineer Caravan would be in town on Thursday that there would be some major breaking news regarding the Big 12 Conference -the hiring of Stanford athletics director Bob Bowlsby as the league's new commissioner.
Who better to comment on Bowlsby than WVU athletics director Oliver Luck, who has had both a son - Andrew Luck, the recent No. 1 choice in the National Football League draft -and daughter, Mary Ellen Luck, a volleyball standout, attend Stanford?
"Bob is an excellent choice,'' Luck said during the Mountaineer Caravan at J.P. Henry's Restaurant.
Photo by Jim Butta
Attending Thursday night’s Mountaineer Athletic Club’s Coaches Caravan at J.P. Henry’s Restaurant were, front row, from left, Billy Sims (1978 Heisman Trophy winner), Dana Holgorsen (football), Barry Switzer (former University of Oklahoma head football coach), Gary McPherson, Director of Athletics Oliver Luck and back row, Mountaineer Mascot Jonathan Kimble, Vic Riggs (swimming & diving), Quincy Wilson, Tony Caridi, Craig Turnbull (wrestling) and Bobby Huggins (men’s basketball).
Like Luck, Bowlsby isn't afraid to make bold moves. Consider Bowlsby's hiring of Jim Harbaugh as Stanford's football coach, viewed as controversial and even questionable at the time.
Luck noted that Stanford's athletic department is annually one of the nation's most successful all-around programs, so Bowlsby knows how to run a top-notch operation.
Luck said Bowlsby is inheriting a good situation.
"The Big 12 has had some turnover, but it is in a good position,'' Luck said.
Luck noted that all Big 12 schools are part of an agreement regarding TV rights for 13 years. Thus, any school that leaves before that period would be committing financial suicide. In other words, the league is financially sound.
Luck -like everyone else involved in college football -is waiting on the results of the discussions to form a true national championship. He believes by being a member of the Big 12, WVU always will have the opportunity to be ranked in the top four and thus qualify for the season-ending tournament that is being proposed.
Other highlights from the event included:
"We've been doing this for 12 years now and this is the first time we've had a sellout," explained J.P. Henry's Restaurant co-owner Tom Hughes. "We (Tom and wife Sabrina) truly are Mountaineer fans so this is a labor of love for us.
"But, this is also a good PR move because it helps us align ourselves with the Mountaineers."
During his talk Luck was encouraging fans to use a different approach when welcoming visitors from WVU's newest conference-the Big 12-to Mountaineer Field.
"We want you to invite our new guests to join your tailgates and we want you to greet them warmly," said Luck. "That includes the fans from Oklahoma, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas."
However, the very mention of the Longhorns brought Sims to his feet where he used a colorful word that not only reminded fans of his dislike for Texas, but brought a rousing cheer and laughter from the packed audience.
"Billy (Sims) and I have enjoyed our first tour of West Virginia and we're planning on coming back," explained the Big 12's ambassador. "Heck, I think I could have been a Mountaineer."
Huggins, who has taken WVU to five consecutive NCAA tournaments, brought the crowd to its feet when he told it about his recent dislike when one question he kept having to answer every time he was interviewed by a sports writer.
"It seems like every where I go, they (sports writers) want to ask me how we are going to do in the Big 12," said Huggins. "I tell them, 'what are they (the Big 12) going to do with us'. We've been pretty darn good over the past few years."
Not to be outdone, Holgorsen stepped to the podium next and brought the crowd to its feet when he talked about the Mountaineers' upcoming season.
"We aren't talking about the Big 12 right now," said the second-year coach. "Right now, we have three non-conference games. The first is against Marshall. And, I can tell you that we are going to try and beat the heck out of them."