West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck had some interesting comments recently about Pitt and Syracuse, schools that are leaving the Big East for the ACC, but still remain WVU rivals for at least the rest of this season.
During a Root Sports telecast of the Bowling Green/West Virginia game Oct. 1, Luck criticized Syracuse’s football program and Pitt’s attendance at Heinz Field, plus he overestimated TCU’s love for the Big East.
Asked about possible Big East expansion that could include Air Force and Navy, Luck said, “I would trade Air Force or Navy for Syracuse any day of the week, in terms of the quality of the football program. No disrespect. That’s just an observation most folks would agree with who understand football. Syracuse doesn’t mean a lot to our fan base. Nobody shows up to watch Syracuse because they have been down in football.”
I read those remarks from Luck on Friday, a few hours before the West Virginia/Syracuse game at the Carrier Dome and I said, “Hey, isn’t West Virgina playing Syracuse tonight. Hmmm …”
Then, while Syracuse was thoroughly humbling the Mountaineers, 49-23, I wondered if those words echoed in Luck’s head.
To be fair, Luck praised the Syracuse and Pitt basketball programs and was complimentary of Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, but he also touched upon the sensitive subject of Pitt attendance at Heinz Field and how West Virginia might be able to help its brethern to the north.
“I have not had any discussions with the Pitt folks. I have kind of let them be, quite honestly, with all the activity,” Luck said. “But my sense is they will be interested in maintaining the football rivalry with us. We bring 25,000 fans to Heinz Field. We fill it up. Pitt is not filling up Heinz Field on their own, so that game from a financial perspective is pretty important to them.”
Luck also mistakenly believed TCU was eagerly awaiting its entrance into the Big East.
“Let’s be honest,” he said, “the reason TCU wants to be in this league so badly is they think it’s an easier path to the national championship than going through Norman, Okla., Austin, Texas, and Stillwater, Okla.”
Oops … Not long after Luck’s remarks, TCU jilted the Big East and joined the Big 12 where it will be only too happy to bring its teams to Norman, Austin and Stillwater.
A couple of observations:
No. 1, Luck’s remarks had nothing to do with Syracuse’s victory Friday night, but maybe he should wait until after the game to criticize an opponent. Remember, West Virginia still has to play Pitt next month in Morgantown. I am sure Luck’s comments about Pitt and Heinz Field weren’t received well in the office of Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson.
No. 2, A Pitt official told me West Virginia did not sell its entire allotment of tickets to the Mountaineers’ game last year at Heinz Field.
No. 3, Pitt may have room only for West Virginia OR Notre Dame among non-conference opponents on future schedules. In light of Luck’s remarks, don’t expect Pitt to go out of its way to accomodate West Virginia.