MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Oliver Luck is a firm believer that the financial ramifications of West Virginia's entrance into the Big 12 shouldn't be viewed through the narrow prism of a one-year balance sheet.
No surprise there, right? I mean, really, just the run-up to entry into the league cost the school's athletic department almost $13 million. That was the hit WVU's athletic department took during the 2011-12 school year. A department that for nine of the previous 10 fiscal years had shown a profit was left with that $12.9 million loss.
And that was before a single game had been played or team flight chartered to some faraway outpost in Texas or Oklahoma.
So of course Luck, the school's athletic director, would rather you concentrate on the long term. The school will get its first check from the Big 12 this summer, and even though that one will be half of what most of the other members receive, within the next four years those checks will grow to the point where not only will yearly expenses be covered, but the current deficits will be repaid.
"We knew going into the Big 12 that the first couple or three years would be a financial hardship. And so far it has been,'' Luck said. "But you have to look at it mid-term to long-term. Last year was difficult. This year and the upcoming year are still going to be tough.
"But when you crunch the numbers you have to recognize that those tough years will disappear.''
Well, don't look now, but the toughest of those years is already in the rear-view mirror.
No, Luck isn't dancing in a pile of money in his office at the Coliseum, but if the numbers that his department has crunched are correct then perhaps he should be.
Luck appeared before the school's faculty senate on Monday to answer questions about the department. The questions posed were primarily about the Big 12 and the financial and academic ramifications of the move.
Here's the most illuminating of his answers: When the books close on the 2012-13 fiscal year on June 30, Luck says the athletic department's loss will be in the neighborhood of $50,000.
Not $50 million. Not $5 million. Not even $500,000. The last two of those numbers might seem plausible, even optimistic, given that $12.9 million loss from the year before and the added expenses incurred during the first year of travel though the Big 12.
But no, he's expecting a loss of just $50,000, which for you and me might be catastrophic. For an athletic department with an annual budget of more than $80 million, it's nothing.
Is Luck simply being optimistic? He doesn't think so.
"I tend to be a glass-half-full guy. I'm just naturally optimistic, I guess,'' he said Tuesday. "So I've learned through the years to leave budgets and projections like this to [chief financial officers] and the money guys because not only do they know more about it than me, they tend to be more pessimistic.''
In other words, Luck's projection of just a $50,000 loss - essentially a wash - isn't his. It comes from Michael Szul, the athletic department's associate athletic director for business operations.