MORGANTOWN - Oliver Luck recalled the first time he ever stepped on to what he referred to as "New Mountaineer Field," that September day in 1980 when he was to lead his team against the University of Cincinnati.
Now some 30 years later, the star student and quarterback is back at that same field, prepared to lead the entire Mountaineer athletic program after being selected as the school's new athletic director.
"John Denver flew in in that helicopter and said 'Country Roads,' and it ushered in a golden era of Mountaineer athletics," Luck said during Monday's introductory press conference and reception on the Touchdown Terrace at what is now referred to as Milan Puskar Stadium at Mountaineer Field. "For me to come back and have this opportunity is something very special. I feel very lucky to have this opportunity."
(The Inter-Mountain/John Wickline)
TAKING?OVER?— West Virginia University president James Clements, left, hands new athletic director Oliver Luck a modern WVU football jersey during Monday’s press conference at Milan Puskar Stadium. Luck, a record-setting WVU quarterback who was also a star in the classroom, holds a copy of his 1981 Peach Bowl jersey that was also presented to him as a welcoming gift.
Luck, who will have a base salary of $390,000 in his newest role, will assume his duties as of July 1. He succeeds the retiring Ed Pastilong, another former WVU quarterback, who will remain in an advisory capacity through 2012 while Luck wraps up some unfinished business in Houston where he is the president of the Houston Dynamo, the city's Major League Soccer franchise.
After graduating magna cum laude in 1982 from WVU, Luck was drafted into the National Football League by the Houston Oilers. He played with that team through 1986, earning a law degree from the University of Texas in the process. After retiring from football, he held the position of vice president of business development with the NFL and oversaw the operations of NFL Europe.
Luck, a two-time Academic All-America selection between 1978-91 and a Rhodes Scholar finalist, is a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. He has also served on the University's Board of Governors, a position he resigned in order to accept the athletic director's job.
"Oliver took advantage of the opportunities he had at WVU to go into the national and international arena to find success," said WVU President James Clements. "Oliver epitomizes what we all know in our hearts: Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer. It calls you back home."
Both Luck and Clements praised Pastilong's two decades of work that took the college to new heights in terms of athletic success. The school has upgraded facilities and built new ones during Pastilong's tenure.
"There's no doubt (Pastilong's) contributions helped to build the athletic department into one of the best in the nation," Clements said.
Luck added that there is "nothing that can compare" to having your alma mater ask you to return and continue the success that first started during your student days. He said he often thinks of the words of a friend who asks rhetorically, "how can such a small state have such a great university?"
Luck's first challenge may be finding a new home for the school's sports team. With conference realignment taking center stage in recent days, schools are scrambling to find the right fit for their teams.
"The Big East is a great conference, and I would love to see the status quo continue," Luck said. "But in times of uncertainty can come times of great opportunities."