MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - For the first time since Oliver Luck's rookie season in the NFL, West Virginia will have a men's golf team in time for the 2015-16 season.
Luck, the Mountaineers' athletic director, announced Monday that WVU is reintroducing the sport, which had been on the school's varsity roster from 1933-82. The Mountaineers now have 18 sports and offer enough to meet the Big 12's requirements.
Monday was the first anniversary of WVU's entrance into the league after being a member of the Big East since 1991.
Big 12 membership requires six men's and six women's sports. WVU had 10 women's sports and five men's sports, plus co-ed rifle. Luck said the Mountaineers considered men's tennis, men's cross country and indoor and outdoor men's track and field.
"We looked at financial factors, we looked at Title IX factors, we looked at fundraising opportunities the sports offer us and we looked at the necessity, or the lack thereof, of infrastructure of the sports," Luck said. "What made the most sense was to bring back men's golf to get in accordance with the Big 12 bylaws."
Finances worked heavily in golf's favor. Luck said various donors have made "verbal commitments" of more than $1.5 million to support the program's operations and scholarship endowment. WVU will begin with 1.5 scholarships, but Luck said the athletic department is "absolutely committed" to working toward the NCAA maximum of 4.5 scholarships to be spread throughout the roster by the 2017-18 season.
"It made sense for us to ramp up to 4.5 and perhaps use the 2014-15 academic year to maybe do some open tournaments for the students here," Luck said. "We think there may well be student-athletes enrolled in the university who are more than capable of playing for our golf team."
Luck added that golf, men's tennis and men's cross country had the 4.5-scholarship limit while indoor and outdoor track and field had 12.6-scholarship limits.
Additionally, WVU said a fully funded golf program would cost about $257,162 annually.
"We looked at what Big 12 schools playing golf are paying, what peer institutions playing golf are paying, and what you find is a lot of programs at the Division I level are paying $250,000, $300,000," Luck said. "Based on that, we think our approximation is a pretty good number in terms of launching a program."