Orange Bowl: WVU's Luck has had busy start to year
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- This is been quite a year for Oliver Luck - and it's only four days old.
The West Virginia University Athletic Director arrived in Arizona on New Year's Eve with his family to watch his oldest son, Andrew, quarterback Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. The Cardinal lost to Oklahoma State on Monday in overtime, 41-38.
"We had had a group probably of about 100 people that traveled out there - relatives, friends, friends of relatives - and it was a great game," Luck said. "It was also an emotional game.
"I thought both teams played pretty well together and did what you expected. Stanford had the long, methodical drives. Oklahoma State scored in what seemed about 4 seconds on their drives. I just thought it was a well-played game."
It was Andrew's final college game. He still is just a redshirt junior, but will skip his senior season and enter the NFL Draft, where he's expected to be the top pick.
"He's eligible to come back, but the plan right now - and I don't think he'll change his mind - is to declare for the draft and start to do all the things he has to do to get ready," Oliver
The Lucks traveled back to Morgantown after the game with Andrew, who worked out on the WVU campus Wednesday at the student recreation center. Oliver and his youngest daughter, Emily, traveled here Tuesday for the Orange Bowl.
No. 23 WVU (9-3) played No. 14 Clemson (10-3) in a nationally televised Orange Bowl in Luck's second season in charge of the athletic department, and Dana Holgorsen's first season as coach.
"It's hard to get to BCS games," Luck said. "I don't think anybody on the team or on the staff is taking it for granted. Our fans shouldn't take it for granted. It's tough to get to a BCS game. A lot of fans would love to be in a position like this."
The blessing also is a burden for the Mountaineers, who have spent a lot of money on travel and mandatory accommodations here and who will lose somewhere around $1 million on ticket sales.
WVU had a similar problem at the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, but Ken Kendrick, a graduate and the managing general partner of Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks, donated enough money for the university to break even.
Luck said donors already have come to WVU's aid this year.
"We've had a lot of donors, including Ken, step up with some sizeable donations, some six-figure donations, to provide tickets to the military personnel, which has helped us substantially," Luck said. "It's a challenge and one that a lot of schools are facing."
Luck said the losses that teams in various conferences take throughout bowl season "need to be addressed very soon by all the BCS conferences."
WVU was forced to buy 17,500 tickets in seven price categories from the Orange Bowl and then pay for whatever tickets were not sold.
Luck said the cost of the mandated tickets drive fans to a secondary market.
"I opened my wallet and happened to look at the stub for the ticket I had to the Fiesta Bowl - it was a $235 dollar ticket," he said. "That's a pretty pricey ticket for a college football game. Sometimes you have to take what the finance people often call a haircut, but I don't think it's sustainable long-term. You've got schools like Connecticut last year losing a big chunk of money and now us and Clemson. These aren't patsy schools. These are schools with large fan bases."
Tickets purchased online affect WVU. Websites, like StubHub.com, sold Orange Bowl tickets for well under the price WVU had to offer for similar seats.
"There will be a lot more than 8,000 or 9,000 Mountaineer fans in the stadium," Luck predicted. "A lot of those folks bought their tickets on StubHub or whatever. That needs to be looked at."
Schools would have a hard time regulating online sales, but Luck is more concerned with the origin of the market.
"Where do those tickets come from? Why are there so many tickets on the secondary market? What is the source?" he said.
Luck said the financial evaluation should go beyond the issues with the tickets, though, and include costly variables for the school and logistics for the fans.
"Reduce the ticket allocation," he said. "Allow a team to come down for perhaps a shorter stay."
WVU has been here since Dec. 29, and was required to stay at the Fontainebleau Resort on Miami Beach.
"Maybe shave off a couple days," he said. "It's not inexpensive to house the team, and the band, for that matter, in Miami Beach."
Seeing as if Luck has been traveling to these games the past few years with his family, he's sensitive to what fans have to go through to make these trips work. He said changes could be made to make it easier.
"You can go look at dates to make it a more viable family trip," he said. "School is in session right now. My school-aged kids are in school. Hopefully, kids are in school at West Virginia's public and private schools. It's tough to bring a family down for games. The games used to be Jan. 1. Could you do that again?"