Country Roads v. Stewart Mandel - West Virginia, The Big East, And The BCS

I've never actually met Stewart Mandel. But I generally used to respect him. Sort of. Other than sucking up to RichRod during that whole saga, he's been a pretty fair and unbiased national writer, and relatively entertaining to read. His stuff is usually well-researched and supported, and you can tell for the most part that he watches the games and tries to make informed opinions about most of the teams. But lately, we've had a bit of a tiff. See, last week, he wrote a rather lengthy column about the future of the Big East's BCS bid, titled "In realignment circus, desperate Big East will likely lose AQ status," in which he said:

Barring some unforeseen coup by the Big East, the Chosen Six is about to become the Chosen Five.

The Big East, like the other five AQ conferences, is assured an annual berth through the length of the BCS' current contract, which runs through the 2013 season. After that, there's no guarantee. The BCS will use an evaluation formula to determine whether an additional league like the Mountain West will merit a berth for the next two seasons. After that, however, the BCS becomes whatever the marketplace -- the television networks and the bowls themselves -- deems worthy.

Oh really? You sure about that, Stewart? Because that's the first I've heard of the Big East being imminently assured of losing its BCS bid. So unless Mandel is into breaking this type of news in the midst of an otherwise unsubstaniated column, we may have an issue.

I actually wrote him an email, calling him out for this bit of breaking "news":

Stew, I have to say I was a little disappointed with your column about the impending demise of the Big East's automatic BCS bid. As a writer that I typically respect and enjoy reading, you failed to back up anything you said with any type of research or sources. The Big East may very well lose its BCS bid in the future, but as it stands now, the last 6 conference championships were won by UConn, Cincinnati, WVU, and Louisville, who are all still in the league. So based on the BCS formula and AQ requirements, what is it about the exit of Pitt and Syracuse that would change the fate of the Big East?

His response:

A I wrote in the column, the next contract won't necessarily be determined by any formula. It's possible the entire system will be restructured due to the extent of realignment that's taken place since the last contract, at which point the various parties (the conferences, bowls and TV partner) will determine which conferences do or don't get guaranteed bids (assuming those even still exist), and that will be based more on marketability than on-field performance.

Actually, if you look back to the top, that's not what he wrote in the column at all. He didn't say anything about the BCS doing away with the formula, and he certainly didn't cite any sources about it. Yes, it's possible the entire system will be restructured. It's also possible that I'm going to win Powerball next week, buy WVU's entrance into the SEC, and live on a remote island outside of Tahiti somewhere. But that doesn't make it likely, as he suggests in the title and statment that the "Chosen Six is about to become the Chosen Five." So I'm a little disappointed in Stewart and his jump from some dreamt-up possibility to a likelihood of the Big East losing its BCS bid. That's just poor journalism.

Then, today, he came out with his weekly College Football Overtime feature, which features his impressions from the preceding weekend. Again, he's usually pretty fair and balanced in the column. But my paranoia about his hatred for WVU and the Big East was confirmed on the third page of his expose', titled "Poll Watching"

Overrated: West Virginia (AP: No. 11. Coaches: No. 14)

The Mountaineers have played one opponent of any significance, LSU, and lost. Now they're on the cusp of the Top 10? Let's pump the brakes, AP voters.

Overrated? Really? Virginia Tech (tied at No. 14 with wins over...umm... Miami and Wake Forest?) is overrated. Penn State (ranked 25th, who got massacred by Alabama and hasn't beaten a BCS conference team by more than 10 points) is overrated. The fact that West Virginia hasn't played anyone of any significance outside of LSU (which we haven't) doesn't mean they're overrated. Stanford hasn't played anyone with a pulse yet is undefeated and ranked in the top 10. Are they overrated?

Other than Maryland, who was riding high off a Labor Day upset of Miami, WVU's opponents have been overmatched and outmanned. It's one thing to eke by inferior opponents (like the Mountaineers did under Bill Stewart). It's another to re-write the school record books while bludgeoning them into submission. That type of dominance should earn you some type of respect, but evidently that doesn't happen with Stewart Mandel because WVU plays in the Big East, and the Big East, in Mandel's mind, doesn't deserve a BCS bid. If you play an inferior schedule, you suck. Beat everyone on that inferior schedule by 35 points? You still suck, and there's nothing you can do to remove the suck.

I'm not one to don my tin foil hat and jump in the driver's seat of the conspiracy theorist bandwagon, but it's pretty evident that Stewart Mandel doesn't respect the Big East or WVU, statistics, logic, and reason be damned. Unfortunately, there's really not much we can do about it other than continue to earn his respect. And if there's anything WVU has thrived on over the years, it's feeling disrespected. 

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