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WVU expected to add men's golf

By Jack Bogaczyk

MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University is literally ready to tee it up in the Big 12 Conference.

WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck said Wednesday that the Mountaineers need to add one sport on the men's side for Big 12 competition, and that "all indications are" that golf will be the choice.

Luck, in an interview in his WVU Coliseum office on Big 12 and other matters, said the Mountaineers also looked at resuming two other men's sports that were dropped by the school in the past - tennis and track and field/cross country.

WVU dropped men's golf in 1982, when it also dropped softball. While Luck said no decision is final, and one would have to be approved by the WVU Athletic Council as well as other entities, golf makes the most sense financially.

Luck did not say in which season WVU will begin competition in the sport.

He said another reason he likes the potential for a golf program is he is "big on regionalism, and golf is big in West Virginia, lots of great courses, lots of people playing ... The Greenbrier ... boosting tourism in the state."

He said he and other WVU athletic staffers have talked with several clubs in the area - including The Pines and Pikewood National - as potential home courses for the Mountaineers in a conference that is strong nationally in the sport.

While refusing to address matters involving the Big East and litigation surrounding WVU's pending exit from the Rhode Island-based conference - including a reported settlement of $11 million cash plus other moves, Luck did comment on several other matters:

* On the future of what would be a non-conference continuation of the "Backyard Brawl" football series with Pitt and an in-state continuation with Marshall:

"I haven't talked to Pitt. We haven't had any discussions with Marshall. But it's not as though we're purposely not talking. We've had a lot to work through (on the Big 12/Big East situation).

"And we've got games already scheduled, like with East Carolina and Michigan State in future years. We have to decide what we need to do about those."

* On the WVU programs that don't play in Big 12 competition:

"Rifle is not a Big 12 sport, and rifle will stay in the Great American Rifle Conference ... GARC, a great acronym.

"The Big 12 doesn't have men's soccer. There's Conference USA or the MAC (Mid-American Conference). We've had conversations with both ... Conference USA has other issues its dealing with now (potential merger with the Mountain West). We're still working on it."

* On any potential for expanding Mountaineer Field's 60,000 capacity because of the move to the Big 12 and pending home dates with Oklahoma and Texas:

"Really, I think we have to go through a year or two (in the Big 12) to see ... They say 'You never build the church for Easter Sunday.' Mountaineer Field is a marvelous building, but it's 30 years old, and there are some needs there, like working with concourses, other things.

"If you expand, then you have to find more parking. There are a lot of things involved logistically. The reaction to getting into the Big 12 has been overwhelmingly positive from our supporters, but we'll have to see as we get into it.

"I think it will be phenomenal, from the feedback I'm getting."

* On facilities needs as WVU heads into the Big 12:

"We've looked over all of our sports and I think we're in pretty good position most places in terms of infrastructure. If I had to pick one sport with needs, it's baseball.

"We need to figure out what we need to do at Hawley Field and do it. Compared to what I know about Big 12 baseball - which is very good - Hawley Field is at the very bottom of the conference in terms of facilities.

"We don't want any of our sports to be in that situation, and we'll do what's needed there."

Luck also said he wanted to dispel some of the "misconceptions" about the cost of travel for WVU athletics in the Big 12.

"As far as the Big 12, gymnastics and wrestling are conference sports, but we won't be traveling (to the Midwest) for dual meets. The same with swimming and diving, women's track and field and cross country, rowing.

"In those sports, we'll only go to Big 12 Championships - and we'll have an opportunity to host some of those championships here, I think, which we want to do.

"The sports where we will go (and Big 12 visitors will come to Morgantown) will be volleyball, women's tennis, women's soccer, baseball, both basketballs (men, women) and football, of course.

"There has been some confusion about that. In wrestling, for example, we won't be able to be in the Eastern Wrestling League anymore, but I'd imagine in dual meets we'll still face a lot of those same teams we do now."


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