The NCAA is losing one of its most respected executives to an unusual landing spot. Oliver Luck, an NCAA executive vice president, will be leaving Indianapolis to become the commissioner and CEO of the XFL, according to a source.
A source familiar with Luck’s decision making told Yahoo Sports that Luck’s move is based primarily on the “special opportunity” of being involved with the launch of a professional football league. Luck landed the job after being contacted by a headhunter, and a source said his departure from the NCAA comes more from the magnitude of the opportunity, not any dissatisfaction with the embattled organization.
Luck’s move was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday morning.
The XFL is slated to launch its first 10-week regular season in January of 2020. It’s the second incarnation of the league under WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon. There’s a reported $100 million outlay by McMahon to start the XFL. The fact that the WWE is a finance-rich, publicly traded company with an experienced businessman like McMahon at the helm was attractive to Luck, according to sources.
“Oliver and I share the same vision and passion for reimagining the game of football,” McMahon said in a statement later Tuesday. “His experience as both an athlete and executive will ensure the long-term success of the XFL.”
Luck added: “Football has always been a constant in my life and I’m excited about the unique opportunity to present America’s favorite sport to fans in a new way. The XFL will create first-class organizations that local cities across the country will be proud of.”
Landing Luck as the first commissioner is a coup for the XFL, as his experience ranges from the president of NFL Europe to the athletic director of West Virginia to the president and general manager of the MLS’ Houston Dynamo. Luck played quarterback at West Virginia and earned his law degree at the University of Texas during NFL offseasons while playing for the Houston Oilers.
But he’s still keenly aware of how he’s best known in NFL circles, as he often joked while the athletic director at West Virginia that his “AD” title stood for Andrew’s Dad. Luck’s oldest son, Andrew, starred at Stanford and became the No. 1 pick by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2012 NFL draft. Oliver Luck later joined his son in Indianapolis when the NCAA lured him away from West Virginia with one of the top jobs in the organization: NCAA executive vice president of regulatory affairs and strategic partnerships. The title was a mouthful but the job was simple – the NCAA relied on Luck for outreach to campuses and conferences, helping build relationships and credibility at a time when executive faith in the organization has waned on campuses. The move to Connecticut, where the league will be based, will bring Oliver and Kathy Luck closer to their other son, Yale soccer player Addison Luck. (He was the two-time Gatorade West Virginia player of the year in high school and played in 10 games for the Bulldogs as a sophomore last season.)
The XFL’s biggest early headline, other than a pleading tweet from wayward quarterback Johnny Manziel, came when McMahon stated overtly that anthem protesting wouldn’t be allowed. “People don’t want social and political issues coming into play when they are trying to be entertained,” McMahon told ESPN in January. “We want someone who wants to take a knee to do their version of that on their personal time.”
One of Luck’s first tasks will likely be identifying and evaluating potential media partners, as there’s nobody yet slated to broadcast the league.
“Football has always been a constant in my life and I’m excited about the unique opportunity to present America’s favorite sport to fans in a new way,” Luck said. “The XFL will create first-class organizations that local cities across the country will be proud of.”
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