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Mitch Vingle: Luck on Big 12 meetings, hoops, wrestling and Clooney

Mitch Vingle

If you’re a top-shelf high school athlete, smile.

Life will be good for you at the college level.

This week, WVU athletic director Oliver Luck — as well as men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins, women’s basketball coach Mike Carey and football coach Dana Holgorsen — attended Big 12 meetings at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.

While you athletes may not be staying in a Biltmore when you arrive at your university, the stage is being set for a very comfortable experience.

“The athletic directors met and, although no decisions were made, we had a lot of discussions,” Luck said Thursday. “We talked about the cost of attendance [for student-athletes], medical insurance, stipends and how we carry it all out. Does it go across all sports?

“We talked about a lot of things. Once we talked an hour about nutrition [via provided snacks]. Is it a recruiting tool? Some of it was actually kind of funny.”

In the end, though, mark it down: Athletes, at least in the power conferences, will be better compensated than they are now.

Luck said another topic was the possibility of turning the clock back and combining the Big 12 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

“It used to be together, but it was split to give a separate identity to the women’s teams,” Luck said. “It’s hard, though, for [the women’s tournament] to stand by itself. I went out for our women’s games and there just weren’t many people there.”

A check of the numbers certainly backs that statement. If you don’t know, the Big 12 women’s tournament was held at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, where the NBA’s Thunder plays.

The total attendance for the women’s event was 24,387. The average for each two-game session was 4,877. The most to attend a session was 5,262, which was when WVU beat TCU and Texas defeated Oklahoma. Understand the arena holds 18,000. Then imagine how empty the place seemed.

On the flip side, you had this past season’s Big 12 men’s tournament, which was held at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. The place holds a tad over 19,000 as well as 72 suites.

Just the final men’s game between Baylor and Iowa State drew 19,108. Each session drew an amazing average of 18,999.

So maybe combining the two events — which can’t happen until 2016 because of contracts — isn’t a bad idea. The women’s games would certainly see an increase in attendance.

Luck is now back in Morgantown and resuming his search for a new WVU wrestling coach. He said two candidates were in Touchdown City last weekend and three more are visiting this weekend. A pool of “70 to 80” applicants has been pared down to five “assistants and sitting head coaches at good, quality wrestling schools,” he said.

“We should have a resolution by the middle of next week,” Luck said.

Oh, and by the way, yes, Luck did attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last Saturday, which featured President Barack Obama.

“It’s like a combination of the Oscars and Grammys,” Luck said. “[Son and Indianapolis Colts quarterback] Andrew was invited with a guest and he knows I’m a political junkie, so he asked me to go.”

Other NFL players like Cam Newton, Adrian Peterson and Richard Sherman were there as well as Andrew Luck. The Mountaineer AD spotted West Virginia natives like Hinton product Sylvia Burwell, who has been tapped by Obama as the next Health and Human Services Secretary; Jim Smith, a Marshall grad now president and CEO of Thomson Reuters; country star Brad Paisley of Glen Dale; and Sen. Joe Manchin.

Luck said he sat one table away from actor George Clooney.

“I said, ‘Hey, aren’t you Jay Wright, the coach at Villanova?’ ” Luck chuckled.

The best line of the night, however, went to Obama, who pointed out Sherman, who, like Andrew Luck, went to Stanford. You might remember Sherman’s outburst in a post-game interview after sealing the NFC championship with a knockdown of a pass intended for San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree. Obama couldn’t resist.

“Sometimes I do feel disrespected by you reporters,” Obama said. “But that’s OK. [Sherman] gave me some great tips on how to handle it. [CNN anchor] Jake Tapper, don’t you ever talk about me like that! I’m the best president in the game!”

Pretty good stuff.

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.


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