As a former quarterback at West Virginia University and for the NFL’s Houston Oilers, Oliver Luck has basked in the adulation of thousands of fans. As an international executive, he led pioneering efforts of the NFL’s World League of American Football into Europe.
And in his post-NFL career, he’s overseen the development and management of more than $1 billion in professional sports and entertainment venues in Houston.
But Luck recently received a thrill that will go unmatched among his accomplishments: “There’s nothing that compares to your alma mater calling you and asking you to come back home and help, continue to build, not to build, what’s become a great program,” Luck said Monday (June 14) as he was formally introduced as WVU’s next director of intercollegiate athletics.
“I’m honored and I’m humbled.”
Luck said Thomas Wolfe was wrong: “You can go home again.”
The former Rhodes Scholar finalist and academic All-American who led the Mountaineers to a Peach Bowl victory in 1981 was formally introduced by President James P. Clements. Luck, who was named AD June 10, succeeds Ed Pastilong, who will retire June 30 and will serve as emeritus athletic director through 2012. Luck’s duties begin July 1.
Click below to hear Women's Basketball Coach Mike Carey, Men's Basketball Coach Bob Huggins and Football Coach Bill Stewart on the hiring of Oliver Luck as athletic Director:
[ Download as MP3 File ]
“The return of Oliver Luck to West Virginia and to his alma mater is truly symbolic of how this great University impacts and changes lives,” Clements said. “A gifted young scholar and athlete from Cleveland, Ohio, he took advantage of the opportunities he had here at WVU – both in the classroom and on the playing field—to go out into the national and international arenas and find success in professional sports, in business, and in management ? and personal success with a fine family.
“Now, this outstanding Mountaineer is returning home to lead our fine Athletic Department to even greater success and prominence in the years ahead,” he said.
“Oliver epitomizes what we all know in our hearts: ‘Once a Mountaineer, Always A Mountaineer.’ “
Click below to hear President Jim Clements recount the outpouring of support for Luck as he becomes athletic director:
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WVU basketball standout Liz Repella welcomed Luck to his new position and to the Mountaineer Family.
“You will no doubt leave your mark on this institution as you have in your past endeavors,” said Repella, a second-team all-Big East guard and like Luck academic All-American. “This is a special time at this University as the torch is passed from one great athletic director to another.”
Luck’s wife Kathy attended the ceremony along with a host of friends and about 250 well-wishers from the University community. The room was filled with a “who’s who” of Mountaineer athletics, including Don Nehlen, who arrived at WVU in 1980 and coached Luck for two years as part of his 21-year career with the Mountaineers; Pastilong; former athletic director Leland Byrd; and current Mountaineer coaches, including basketball coach Bob Huggins and football coach Bill Stewart.
Stewart said he visited with Luck about a month ago and encouraged him to take the job.
“I told him then, ‘We need you back home,’” he said. “His coming back here is a true blessing and a great, great day for all the Mountaineer faithful.”
Click below to hear Oliver Luck discuss the quality of WVU athletics:
[ Download as MP3 File ]
Luck takes over at a time when the University is engaged in a long-term strategic planning process, which Clements has said is “an ideal time” to lead the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics into the next chapter in WVU’s history. He joins an athletic department which has seen its budget grow from $20 million to more than $59 million over the past two decades.
“Oliver will also be joining a new team – WVU’s Senior Leadership Team – as we craft a strategic plan for our University and as we re-imagine what this flagship, land-grant University can – and will be – in the future,” Clements said. “It is clear that academic and athletic success, fund-raising, affinity building, program development, and attracting the highest quality student-athletes will all be key to the University’s prominence and its future success.”
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Luck played quarterback for the Mountaineers from 1978-1981, setting school records for touchdown passes and completions. His 5,765 career passing yards ranks him fourth on the school’s all-time passing list. He was named MVP in 1980 and 1981, and also earned the 1981 Louis D. Meisel Award for the WVU scholar athlete with the highest grade-point average. He was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
In 1982, he was selected in the second round of the NFL draft by the Houston Oilers, and either started or played back-up quarterback through the 1986 season. During that time, he earned his law degree from the University of Texas cum laude.
After retiring from football, Luck became vice president of business development for the National Football League and president and CEO of NFL Europe.
In 2001, he became chief executive officer of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, overseeing the development and management of Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros; Reliant Stadium, home of the Houston Texans and the Livestock Show and Rodeo; and the Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets.
He became president of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo in 2005, and the team won two MLS Cup championships in his first two years in the position.
Luck and his wife, Kathy, have four children: Andrew, starting quarterback at Stanford; Mary Ellen, an incoming freshman volleyball player at Stanford; daughter Emily, an incoming high school junior; and 7th grade son, Addison.
Luck, who was appointed to the WVU Board of Governors by Gov. Joe Manchin in 2008, resigned his Board position last week.
By Dan Shrensky
WVU News and Information
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