It has been 24 hours since the news broke that WVU athletic director Oliver Luck was leaving the University to take a new position within the NCAA. However, both Luck and WVU President Gordon Gee had been planning for this day for almost 3 weeks. The search for Luck’s replacement has been ongoing right under our noses for some time. And one reason none of us knew this could be the simplest answer of them all, his replacement was already on the staff.
Since the announcement many, including Gee, have been touting the possibility of an “unconventional” hire. This hire possibly being someone who has never been in the position before. That person could very well be Keli Cummingham. Cummingham is a native of West Virginia and has been part of the staff since 2010 when she came from the University of Maryland to take the position of Associate Athletic Director for Governance and Compliance. Well respected among her colleagues Cummingham would lend a continuity of staff that would presumably keep the status quo intact after Luck leaves in mid January. Also keep in mind that with Luck being a part of the college playoff selection committee this past season Cummingham has taken on many of the day-to-day operations in his absence.
However, she is definitely not the only name on the list, and honestly not the most talked about. The following three are also considered to be candidates by many;
Babcock has always shown the desire to come back to Morgantown but that was before he filled the vacant AD position at Virginia Tech left by long tenured James Weaver. Sources indicated to BGS, and as we reported yesterday, Babcock would be considered a longshot for this very reason. He likes the atmosphere in Blacksburg, recently bought a house, and has made it known he likes the support the program has. Despite his affection for WVU he does not seem to be the answer this time around.
A Parkersburg native Lyons has built a very well respected resume since graduating from WVU in 1988. Currently the deputy athletic director at Alabama Lyons was also the associate commissioner of the ACC from 2010-2011. Lyons could be a very strong candidate as many are believe his experience as both associate commissioner of the ACC and from his current position at Alabama makes him a strong presence in Morgantown.
Jim is the son of Fred Schaus who was the athletic director at WVU before Ed Pastilong took over in 1989. Jim is currently the AD at Ohio University and is still very well connected to WVU. There could obviously be some politics involved in this move as Jim’s father is still very well respected and has close times to the West family. However, that should not take away from Jim’s accomplishments. Jim is known as a mastermind when it comes to working with smaller budgets (see the success of the Wichita St basketball program).
Mullens is definitely the fan favorite and has been speculated to be the frontrunner in the clubhouse at the moment according to those we speak to in Morgantown. Currently the AD at Oregon, Mullens has always shown a desire to come back to WV where he is from and this would not be the first time Mullens was interested in the job. Mullens attractiveness comes from his ability to raise money. His resume also boasts bigger schools such as Kentucky and Maryland which proves his ability to manage larger athletic departments. If Mullens the candidate do not expect to hear anything until after season is over.
No matter who ends up getting the position one thing is certain, Oliver Luck will have a say in his successor. While Gee has stated that he would like to fill the position quickly he has also stated that he has not spoken directly to any candidate although his staff has. This has led many to believe that Luck is heading this search.
article photo courtesy of oregonlive.com