MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University announced Monday plans to add a men’s golf team by 2015, giving the school a sixth men’s sport as mandated by the Big 12.
Men’s tennis, cross-country, and indoor/outdoor track and field and men’s gymnastics also were considered, though for several months athletics director Oliver Luck has suggested golf was the frontrunner because it is relatively inexpensive and can be stocked with in-state recruits. WVU cited 108 high schools in West Virginia competed in boys’ golf during the 2012-13 school year, with 1,016 participants.
WVU previously fielded a men’s golf team from 1933 to 1982, and Luck said golf’s statewide popularity made it “a perfect addition” for the athletics department.
“A lot of thought, time and effort went into this decision as far as cost, travel and infrastructure goes,” Luck said, “and I believe the strong tradition and history of Big 12 golf will only enhance our chances of building a championship program.”
The announcement coincided with PGA Tour players arriving for the Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, where Luck was on hand Monday night.
Luck said he plans to hire a coach by March 31, 2014, with golf beginning competition as an NCAA varsity sport July 1, 2015.
“We’re looking for someone who can build a program that can be competitive in the conference,” Luck said during a media teleconference. “We’ve received a handful of resumes and overtures, but we’re a long way from posting the position.”
Men’s Division I golf receives a maximum of 4.5 scholarships—the same as tennis, while track allows 12.6. In estimating the school will have all scholarships funded by 2017, Luck put the fully implemented cost of a men’s golf program at $257,162 annually.
Luck said WVU golf alumni had pledged more than $1.5 million toward reintroducing the program.
“(Those pledges) played a pretty good-sized role—it’s hard to ignore that factor,” he said. “Certainly we want to endow all of our scholarships, which is a massive goal.”
The West Virginia Golf Association’s executive director, Ken Tackett, was delighted to see WVU reintroduce golf at the state’s flagship university.
“Golf has established itself as one of the main sports in West Virginia, with a thriving junior golf program, competitive amateur competitions and a PGA Tour event,” Tackett said. “With the success of the game in our state, it is only fitting that our largest university provide an opportunity for our top junior golfers to stay in West Virginia and compete at a Division I level.”
The Big 12 also requires six women’s sports, of which WVU already competes in 10.
Luck said the school is engaged in discussions with golf courses around the state to determine practice and match locations.
“I’m not a golfer myself, so when people ask me what kind of courses we should play on, I have no idea,” he joked.