EDITORIAL: WVU's Luck Should Have the Grace to Go

HNN Staff
Oliver Luck
Oliver Luck

Any fairminded person realizes, especially in the wild world of collegiate sports, that fans and donors to a university have to be flexible, especially with a new hire, whether in a new head coach or athletic director.  No one is perfect, and both roles require a unique individual who can handle stressful, multiple tasks. 

If a modern university is wise enough to pick an athletic director who can pick winning coaches, keep the program's budget in the black, and run an ethical ship, great glory for the school, its students, and alumni can result.  The American public will always reward such sports programs with both their good will and gameday ticket purchases.  We have always enjoyed strong competitors who play by the rules in America.

West Virginia University has had a taste of this kind of leadership over the years.  Don Nehlen, for example, ran a clean football program for two decades at WVU and had many memorable seasons at the helm.  Nehlen remains a hero to many for his combination of solid football seasons unbesmirched by ethical lapses.  That's why when you go to Mountaineer Field you literally drive on Don Nehlen Boulevard to get to the game.  Ethical leadership has its advantages.

Don Nehlen is the kind of man West Virginians could point their children to as a role model.  He may not have been perfect, but he avoided the big pitfalls that plague many head coaches, top execs, and other leaders today.

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Not so Oliver Luck, Dana Holgorsen, and Bill Stewart, each of whom have shown a certain lack of character lately.  Again, nobody's perfect, but it takes an unusual degree of willful pride to do what these three men have done to the WVU football program.

No doubt, each of these "adults" have been tutored by friends and advisors that they will get pummeled in the press but that then it will "all blow over."  Meanwhile, the WVU football program, one that so many young West Virginians look up to in a state that doesn't have too many other heroes lately, has taken a body blow of staggering proportions.

For we have a head coach who, according to published reports, goes after a colleague by trying to get reporters to gather "dirt" on him.  Yes, Stewart might have been feeling underappreciated by a program he had served loyalty, but going after one's colleague is no way to express that disappointment--especially after Stewart agreed to stay on the payroll.   Meanwhile, Dana Holgorsen is nobody's role model of late, with a publicly manifested drinking problem.  To his credit, Holgorsen has apologized and recognizes that he is on notice to not let it happen again.

Our question is: who will hold WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck accountable for one of the most poorly-considered decisions in modern-day college football?  Everyone from national sports analysts to the man on the street in West Virginia is trying to figure out how a smart guy like Luck thought this kind of arrangement between rivals could ever work out?

Luck may end up apologizing to "Mountaineer Nation" for this as well, but everyone knows that this misadventure has been the worst national publicity WVU has received since the Mike Garrison affair with Heather Manchin Bresch.  Like the Garrison/Bresch scandal, it smells worse because it was all so unavoidable.

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The common denominator here is hubris.  If what the former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter said is true, Stewart appears to have thought he was irreplaceable as Head Coach.  Perhaps he believed he was such a good guy that that he felt justified to pull a slimey trick on a colleague.   Holgorson appears to believe himself such a hot prospect that he needn't play by society's rules when it comes to drinking.

And Luck?  Luck thought somehow that he had the unique ability to make this crazy pairing work. A wiser man would know better.

Luck's attitude suggests a bit more than supreme self-confidence.  Frankly, it borders on living in one's own world.  Luck may have thought he was doing the right thing for everybody, including himself, by trying to please everyone across the board and thinking he could pull off the impossible.

But real leaders know that good decisions are rooted in stone-cold reality.  The reality here was simple: you don't ask an older man to continue working with his replacement.  The older man will watch his authority ebb away and feel humiliated.

A seventh grader could have told Luck that.  For the cost Oliver Luck has brought to WVU and its Athletic Program nationwide over this prolonged and painful affair, he should have the grace to go.

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