The Kinder Garden - Gearing Up

Where did the summer go? Preseason items are flowing fast and furious as they sweep us along toward the start of football season.

ITEM: Mountaineers ranked 11th in preseason coaches poll

Good news for WVU. Besides being more heavily weighted in BCS calculations this year, one basic truth of polls is that its easier to climb to the top if you start near the top. While I'm not ready to predict a Top Five finish for West Virginia just yet, it's much better to start here than down in the twenties.

Also, did you notice that WVU has the highest ranking of any team that wasn't in the final Top 25 coaches poll last year? Does that mean anything? WVU is also only seven points out of the top ten.

One final note. Maryland has to be steamed. They've defeated WVU four straight times, and keep getting voted behind the Mountaineers.

ITEM: ESPN and the coaches who vote in the poll won't release who they voted for, citing concerns over inciting future opponents

More likely they are concerened about knowledgable fans pointing out monstrous inconsistencies in their votes. For example, Cal State Fullerton's coach once voted WVU second in the country the week before the Titans faced WVU. Why? To make him look better after his team got spanked. Also, wonder how many coaches pump up their own teams in the polls?

If you want to have a poll, it shouldn't be a secret ballot. I'd bet that half the coaches aren't the ones doing the voting anyway.

By the way, both Rich Rodriguez and Bob Pruett are on this year's voting board.

ITEM: Donna Shalala admits Willie Williams to the University of Miami

In and of itself, I don't really have a problem with this. Miami is a private school, and they can admit who they wish.

What I do have a problem with is the incredible spin coming from Shalala, who likely drew upon her political exposure to craft a statement that sounded impressive, but actually said nothing.

Some of Ms. Shalala's more choice comments:

"As a condition of admission, we have placed the bar high for him. There will be academic conditions that he must meet to play football at Miami."

Well, no kidding. Just like those on any other player at any other school. Are standards being set higher for Williams than anyone else? Somehow, I doubt it. My guess is that the bar is placed just high enough so that Shalala can walk under it.

"Additionally, he will participate in a program that we provide for all athletes that includes mentoring, constructive counseling, and monitoring of their behavior--both on and off campus."

Again, no duh. The NCAA has a progam called CHAMPS/LifeSkills which does these things. Again, it's nothing special for Williams - 127 Division 1 schools participate in this program.

What wears me out about the whole issue is that Shalala is trying to make it sound like Miami is doing much more for, and with, Williams, and that all of this "special treatment" is for the good of him and the school.

Bullcrap. If you want to admit, him, fine. But don't make up a bunch of self-serving crap to try to justify it to your constiutents.

At least Shalala makes one straightforward remark, even if it was inadvertent: "My friends and advisors have suggested that some institution will take him if we don't; I believe that to be a true statement."

So, was the decision to take him based on the assumption that "if we don't get him, someone else will"? Nice.

ITEM: WVU's national TV schedule looks great, but Big East package appearances suffer due to non-Saturday games

While the Mountaineers have four games on nationwide via the ESPN family, the chances for games on the Big East's syndicated package are slim. With three conference games on non-Saturday dates, only Big East battles with Rutgers, Temple and Boston College are available for television. The Rutgers contest is listed as a possibility, (the other is UConn-Syracuse), while the final two games, both in November, have yet to be selected. Hopefully, the Big East will feature its marquee team in those contests.

Non-conference games against East Carolina and James Madison don't appear to be headed for television, and unless the Sunshine or another network makes a late call, the Central Florida tilt might also be a radio-only affair. The Virginia Tech contest does figure to be picked up in some form, but for right now, the Mountaineers have just one "maybe" in the Big East's local TV contract.

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