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Luck was the only interview

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Before West Virginia University announced it had hired Oliver Luck to be its next athletic director, there were indications it wouldn't happen.

The one person who remained hopeful, if not convinced, it would happen was the person who could relate best.

"Only Oliver can speak for what went through his mind," WVU President Jim Clements said Thursday, "but when I was nominated for this job, it was, 'I'm in the middle of a major project now. I'm really happy now. I love my family. I love my house. I love my job. Why would I want to leave?'

"Then it became, 'Oh, my gosh. What a great university. What a great opportunity.' Then you start to think about things. How do you transition your family? How do you transition projects? There are so many things you have to think through until you get to the point where you say, 'You know what? I'm interested.'"

Clements took office June 30, but had firm attachments to Towson University. He was voted by the students four times as the faculty member of the year.

He worked as provost and vice president for economic and community outreach.

He also was instrumental in renovations at Johnny Unitas Stadium, which is home to the football and lacrosse teams, and the construction of a $45 million basketball and concert arena.

So, Clements understood Luck's mindset.

Luck revealed Thursday he'll begin a six-month transition period July 1 and plans to be at WVU full-time Jan. 1, 2011. Luck, the president and general manager of Houston's Major League Soccer franchise, the Dynamo, is involved in a stadium construction plan. The city and Harris County each agreed to be partners in the $95 million project. Building is to begin Oct. 1 and be ready in 2012. 

"When you're dealing with a building project you never know where it's going to go, but he's not running the building project. He has a project manager for that," Clements said. "We have multimillion dollar projects here, but I don't get pulled into the details. I make sure the thing is on time and on budget. He has to keep his finger on the pulse of what's going on there and he'll do that.

"When I left Maryland, I had to finish projects we had underway. I wouldn't have left work undone. I worked there 20 years and I had loyalty to that place and a duty to do the right thing and make sure everything was in position to get done when I did leave."

Clements and Luck conceded WVU was in a critical time as matters involving major college conference affiliation and realignment evolve daily.

Luck, who said it was "a challenging time in intercollegiate athletics" and "there will be further activity that goes on this summer and into next year," does not yet have an idea how he'll split his time over the next six months between WVU and Houston.

"You can have a conversation over the phone and it doesn't matter where in the country you are," Clements said. "And you can always just get on a plane to get somewhere you need to go."

Luck also admitted he didn't have an extensive list of contacts in college conferences relevant to expansion issues, but that he knew many people through his work experience. Clements is confident Luck will make allies quickly.

"He's a good guy, he's loyal, he's trustworthy, he's a real leader and a broad thinker and a strategic thinker who, I think, perfectly understands his position," Clements said.

As time went on, Clements couldn't shake the idea of having Luck as AD. People wouldn't allow it. So popular was the former WVU quarterback's candidacy that it almost always found Clements in his travels.

"Anywhere I'd go in the town or in the state the people would say, 'Go get Oliver,'" Clements said. "So I'm pretty sure what I've been told is true and that people had been mentioning his name for years."

Clements said Luck was the only candidate who interviewed for the job.

"The way the ad was written, we said we would interview until we found the right one," Clements said. "You can find the right one and when you do, there's no need to go on. He's the right one. He's a proven leader and, we think, an unbelievable choice."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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