Oliver Luck has escaped from under the thumb of the NCAA to become the commissioner of the rekindled XFL.
“I was convinced all the ingredients were in place to make this work,” Luck told Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports on Thursday.
Once again: Luck, the former athletic director at West Virginia University whose Stanford-educated son Andrew quarterbacks the Indianapolis Colts, bolted from his position as Mark Emmert’s right-hand man at the NCAA to join a league headed by wrestling maven Vince McMahon that had already once challenged the NFL as a competitor and failed after 10 weeks and was known more for player names (e.g. “He Hate Me”) than its ridiculous game that, in lieu of kickoffs, had players race from either side of the field to wrestle for the ball at midfield.
That alone puts Luck’s judgment into question. Now, it appears the new XFL commissioner, fittingly, settling into a wrestling-inspired persona. Give him a microphone, maybe some 1980s ski-movie sunglasses, and, to quote “Macho Man” Randy Savage, who incidentally would have been the XFL’s greatest commissioner: “the cream will rise to the top. OH YEAH!”
Luck contradicts NCAA
Let’s get this out of the way. Dodd did not exactly blast a blinding interrogation lamp into the eyes of Luck. Frankly, Dodd was more like a reluctant dad pitching to his 6-year-old daughter in softball.
Still, Oliver Luck – working XFL name “Luckwagon” – delivered some decent sound bites. The most noteworthy of which surrounded sports betting.
Emmert was perceived as the villain of the NCAA; Luck the face of respectability. But as great Gotham district attorney Harvey Dent has said: “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” With the Greyhound bus approaching, Luck just used the NCAA as asphalt.
“If you’re a student-athlete and you put five bucks down on an NFL game, that could cost you a year of eligibility,” Luck told Dodd. “That’s something I’m sure, at some point, our membership is going to want us to take a look at – particularly if you’re talking about casinos and racetracks. … A full season of eligibility, that’s a lot [as a penalty], right? For placing a $5 or $10 dollar bet? I’m not saying that’s right or wrong. The membership, at some point, is going to want us to look at the severity of that, create some sort of sliding scale or whatever.”
You might remember that the NCAA was among a group of leagues that were adamantly against legalizing sports betting. Heck, the association essentially forced daily fantasy sports companies DraftKings and FanDuel from even offering college events, going so far as to exclude DFS ads to run during the College Football Playoff and NCAA Tournament in 2016. The NCAA – along with the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL – even took New Jersey to court to prevent the state from allowing single-game wagering.
Now Luck, Emmert’s former go-to guy, is shrugging. “Eh, sports betting is not a big deal if the bets are small.” Somehow, in Luckwagon’s mind, betting $5 on an NCAA event is more acceptable than $100. The NCAA spent years attempting to cook up a world-class, gourmet dish, and Luck, the association’s former sous chef, hawked a loogie into it.
Now what, NCAA?
We open, interior NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. Emmert massaging his temples after seeing his BFF basically say that sports betting might be OK.
Emmert knows how hard his collegiate association has worked to oppose the industry. In 2007, for example, the NCAA essentially held Oregon hostage. The Oregon Lottery featured Sports Action, a parlay game introduced in 1989. The state was one of four grandfathered in under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which should have let freedom ring. Sure, the NBA sued Oregon to get the state to stop offering NBA games. But NFL games were still available.
Sports Action did not offer college basketball games. That, however, did not stop the NCAA from unsheathing their sword and holding it to the throat of Oregon. The NCAA refused to stage NCAA tournament games in the state until Sports Action was discontinued. The platform was halted in 2007, and two years later, Portland began hosting early-round games.
All of that hard work was crumpled up by Luck and tossed into the nearby XFL-throwback Memphis Maniax trash bin.