MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Turns out, the weekend in Fort Worth was a doubleheader split for Oliver Luck.
Won the football game. Lost the audition.
But whereas the football victory came over a feckless and spiraling opponent, Luck lost the Texas AD job to a superior candidate.
Steve Patterson becomes the Longhorns’ new athletics director, and Luck settles for some lovely parting gifts.
Patterson packs for UT mere days after telling Arizona State’s president he planned to stay. Luck stays at West Virginia mere days after we all presumed he’d be packing.
Patterson signs on for $1.4 million a year in Austin, and Luck keeps pulling down the same ole $550K in Morgantown.
Patterson receives the PIN code to a $160-million ATM, while Luck must stretch his sports dollar twice as far just to keep up.
Patterson returns to a state headquartering 52 of the Fortune 500 companies, while Luck seeks corporate donors in a state with zero.
Patterson will decide the fate of Mack Brown, while Luck’s fate remains tied to the success of Dana Holgorsen.
When I spoke last week with one of Luck’s potential replacements—back when it appeared Luck would actually need replacing—he said the depressed state of WVU’s football program would be a deterrent to candidates. Now that Luck is staying, directing WVU football back to winning heights becomes chief priority. (If you believe the arms-race paradigm, that means improving a stadium that by next year will trail all but Kansas among Big 12 schools. If you believe Holgorsen, it’s about better practice facilities and meeting rooms.)
If Holgorsen’s team pulls out more wins like the one last week at TCU, the hot-seat barkers won’t have much ammunition. If the Mountaineers revert to form from the previous three losses, Luck will face a very necessary decision on Holgorsen as soon as next year.
Luck’s initial decision-making on the Holgorsen-for-Bill Stewart swap was a sloppy miscalculation that devolved into a coach-in-waiting nightmare. And one that might have helped Patterson score slightly higher with the Texas advisory committee.
“This was purely about who was wiling to come in and shake it up,” said Chip Brown of OrangeBloods.com during a Tuesday night interview with MetroNews “Statewide Sportsline.”
Preferring the new Texas AD be fearless in making culture-changing decisions, the eight-member committee and UT President Bill Powers culminated last weekend’s interviews “convinced that Patterson’s personality—a little bit more of a buzz saw than Oliver Luck—just gave him the edge.”
Brown was among several Texas-beat journalists to anoint Luck as the UT frontrunner, conjecture that stings a bit in hindsight. Yet as Brown conveyed to the “Sportsline” crew: “I was even told that coaches were told to expect Oliver Luck.”
ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported Luck “thought he had” the job until Tuesday morning when the offer instead went to Patterson. If Luck truly was so blind-sided, you wonder how long the shock will last, how he’ll recover after coming so close to running the nation’s most lucrative college athletics program. This was Dewey beats Truman, only with nine voters as opposed to 48 million.
Regardless, the awkward scale for Saturday night’s Texas-WVU football game just popped a spring. And if by chance Patterson chooses to fly eastward for his Texas debut, the Fox TV cameras might spend the whole night in split-screen format between the field and the AD’s box.
Outside of “Mad Men,” you couldn’t hope to coax more drama from two fellows in dapper suits, sitting stoically and pondering the life-changing week that was.