GEPHART: In the Dawg House

"When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are!" Jiminy Cricket. That is unless you are Jason Pinkston and Darrin Walls, who are still trying to wish upon a star that they already lost…

In case some readers haven't heard yet, both of these high school football players were downgraded a star when another recruiting evaluation service released their most recent rankings. Apparently, Pinkston, a defensive tackle from Baldwin High School, was NOT able to fight through enough double and triple teams this past year to keep the 4th star that was bestowed upon him the last time these rankings were released. As for Walls, despite playing through pain from a separated shoulder, the fantastic running and defensive back from Woodland Hills High was not able to retain his lofty 5 star ranking either.


I have to be honest with you; the Dawg REALLY wanted to avoid this story like a nasty case of rabies. And I think for one very obvious reason: it has evoked some strong criticism of one of our main competitors. But two things made me reconsider: the fact that the message boards have been buzzing about this story, and because it has merited enough interest to be mentioned in a Kevin Gorman column recently appearing in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.


I won't get into the specifics of the many issues some of our posters have with one or two of the writers from the "other" site. And I will certainly not criticize anyone writing there as I myself am NOT a member of the service. Nor do I have any personal issues with anyone or anything related to it. It would also be unfair because since I am not a paying member, I have ZERO insight into the grading criteria they use to rate high school football players. This makes any possible criticism from me less valid, especially since it would be based entirely and solely on Gorman's article and whatever I have read about it on message boards.


But, I will say this. If Pinkston and Walls were indeed downgraded for having "sub par" seasons, as it has been reported, then I would think it's only fair to expect that other Pitt recruits who HAVE exceeded expectations this season (Nate Nix and John Malecki instantly come to mind) would have ALSO been upgraded for performing better than their preseason rankings. Unfortunately, from what I've read from other posters in "The Heinz Red Zone" and "Inside the Huddle" this has not been the case.


To the Dawg, this makes absolutely no sense.


Considering that recruiting rankings (especially by program and class) are constantly mentioned in national stories and by many coaches and the schools themselves, I think it's fair to expect that the writers who compile and set these evaluations and rankings are basing them on a uniform set of criteria that they apply to ALL recruits…regardless of any outside factors. More importantly, these rankings are mainly of young men (most are still in high school) who work very hard and deserve every chance to be graded fairly since it can impact their future careers as well.


I would only hope the folks on the "other site" pondered this VERY carefully before they published their most recent evaluations...



In the Dawg House: Well, I really found it hard to keep someone in the Dawg House for the holidays. But since it's unfair to Seth Davis, who would have had to stay there another week, I just felt it was right to free him in time for the holidays.


Considering I am in such a festive mood, I felt it would really take someone and something VERY special to place them in the Big House this week. I was really ready to close shop for the holiday season. But to my chagrin, someone did arise and forced me to incarcerate them. In fact, this week's visitor had more than enough time (three weeks!) to make up for their gaffe, but chose not to.


"How's that possible, Dawg?" some of you might be wondering. How did this week's winner have A FULL three weeks to avoid the Dawg House?


Let me explain…


Unfortunately, local Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Shelly Anderson decided to take the path MOST easily traveled in sports writing recently. She devoted her entire December 1st column completely on the "uncertainty" of the Big East retaining its BCS automatic bid in the next few years. This is even more shocking since she's writing about an issue that has calmed down a bit recently. This is especially true since this year's Big East champ, West Virginia, was able to finish with only one loss blemishing its record. Surprisingly, Shelly did offer her opinion that despite the Mountaineer's outstanding record (and even if they are able to win the Sugar Bowl against SEC champion Georgia), the Big East's BCS membership would still be in doubt in the near future.


It's important to mention that Shelly is NOT in the Dawg House solely for writing a horrible column with an unfair and worn out premise. Sure, it's appalling that she repeated the same old "evidence" that the Big East has no right to be included anymore with the other 5 power conferences (I won't bore you, we've heard it all before.) Nor was it any better when she inaccurately reported that it was Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese who lobbied for incoming conference member Louisville's high ranking from last year to count for the Big East. (It was the ACC who asked for this when they incorrectly assumed Boston College would dominate a weakened Big East in their final season.)


Despite all that nonsense, her main culpability for spending time in the Dawg House has to do with what she HASN'T done since her article was published. Something has happened since then that completely shot a hole right through her argument. What happened is that a four loss Florida State squad won the Atlantic Coast Conference. And yet despite this, I have seen NOT one OUNCE of criticism or even a mention of this ridiculous event in her weekly column. Nor have I seen an outright retraction of it either.


This is even more infuriating to the Dawg when you consider that the main premise of Shelly's article was that the Big East didn't deserve to retain its BCS bid because it was obvious (to her at least) that the conference, unlike its other five brothers in the BCS, was NOT capable of producing a national champion anymore. If this is true, then how was the ACC any more capable of producing a worthy champion this year than the Big East, especially when its top ranked teams couldn't even beat out a mediocre and (then) unranked Florida State to win its own conference championship?


Shelly also pointed to the Mountaineers' low (#11) BCS ranking as another reason for her doubt. The Seminoles weren't even ranked and I haven't heard much concern over them being the ACC's BCS representative. Shouldn't she (and all the critics) consider that the only reason the Mountaineers are NOT in the Top 10 might be because a small minority of poll voters (like Houston Nutt, who deserves a spot right next to Shelly for inexplicably not even having the Mountaineers included in his poll at all) just refuse to rank West Virginia high enough to be in the Top 10, mainly because it has somehow become common gospel that the Mountaineers (or any of the other Big East members) "just don't" deserve to be?


Sure, some might say the Mountaineers aren't ranked higher because the Big East is weak and that they really haven't beaten "anybody" this year. So what? Last time I checked Oregon and Notre Dame hadn't beat anyone of substance this year either, didn't stop either of them from finishing ranked in the Top 10...


But yet despite all of this, Shelley has kept quiet on the issue and has since chosen to write about other subjects instead. These include stories on the past travesties of the Colorado University athletic department and Gary Barnett's recent firing as well as the more pressing subject of how modern technology is correcting human error in sport. Maybe Shelly would be home for the holidays if she had owned up to her own error. But since she hasn't, I had no choice but to be a Grinch…no matter how much I didn't want to be.


So come this merry season, Shelly Anderson…you are IN the DAWG HOUSE!


*Just wanted to wish everyone (yes that even includes Shelly, Houston and Seth) a very Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you and your families.*





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