Multiple reports out of Texas suggest that Oliver Luck will be named the next athletics director at the University of Texas, succeeding the retiring DeLoss Dodds. Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com said on Metronews Statewide “Sportsline” Friday night that the announcement could come as soon as this week.
Luck hasn’t said a word about the job, and these stories rely on unidentified sources, so we won’t know for sure until there’s an official announcement. Still, the indicators point to Luck as the most likely choice.
WVU President Jim Clements is a fan of Luck’s. When the president announced last year that Luck’s contract had been extended from 2015 to 2017 with a pay raise (Luck’s base is $550,000 with performance bonuses of up to $150,000) he heaped praise on him.
“Oliver Luck is a true leader,” Clements said. “He has brought stability, momentum and energy to his position. He is someone we want on our team for many more years to come.”
Still, in the back of his mind, Clements must be developing a list of potential replacements in case Luck moves on. Here are some people with experience and West Virginia connections that are being tossed around:
Rob Mullens. You can argue that Mullens already has one of the best jobs in the country as the AD at the University of Oregon. The athletic department is flush with cash thanks to the open checkbook from Nike founder and Oregon graduate Phil Knight. For example, the new $68 million Football Performance Center, complete with Brazilian hardwood floors in the weight room, was paid for by Knight.
But Mullens has strong West Virginia ties, having grown up in Morgantown, where he received undergraduate and graduate degrees from WVU. Mullens has an extensive background in the business side of athletics, including stints at Kentucky, where he managed day-to-day operations, and Maryland, where he ran the athletic department’s financial office.
What would it take to get Mullens back to West Virginia? Maybe just a call from Clements to say, “Come home. We need you.”
Whit Babcock. The Harrisonburg, Va., native had a successful five-year stint in Morgantown with the Mountaineer Athletic Club, the fundraising wing of the athletic department. While at WVU, Babcock earned a master’s degree in sports management in 1996.
Babcock left to take a position as senior associate athletics director at the University of Missouri. In 2011, he was hired as athletics director at the University of Cincinnati, where officials said Babcock’s “background in fundraising, marketing, promotions, ticket sales, licensing and multimedia partnerships were key attributes in support of his hiring.
Shane Lyons. The current deputy director of athletics at the University of Alabama is a native of Parkersburg, W.Va. Lyons has undergraduate and graduate degrees from WVU in sports management.
Prior to going to Alabama in 2011, Lyons was an administrator for 10 years with the Atlantic Coast Conference.He also worked at the NCAA for nine years and spent three more within the Texas Tech compliance office.
Jim Schaus. The name Schaus is deeply rooted in WVU athletics. His late father, Fred, played and coached basketball at WVU and was athletics director from 1981 until his retirement in 1989.
Jim Schaus received his undergraduate degree from Purdue, where his father coached basketball, and his masters in athletics administration from WVU. Before taking over at Ohio University in 2008, Schaus worked for nine years as AD at Wichita State University.
Bob Huggins. Last year, Huggins signed a contract extension that allows him to opt out of coaching after the 2017-2018 season and move into a public relations role with the athletic department. That suggests Huggins, 60, is contemplating the end of his coaching career and the next chapter in his life.
What the iconic coach lacks in administrative experience, he makes up for with his dedication to the University and the state, as well as the knowledge he has gained during a lifetime in athletics.
That’s my somewhat arbitrary short list, in no particular order. What’s yours?