Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I Knew It!

Oliver Luck worshipers, look away now.

It turns out that everyone's favorite uncle and returning hero, WVU President E. Gordon Gee, wasn't exactly a fan of Ollie Luck as top-level administrative peer and athletic director.

In fact, Gordon Gee, who has built a political network to rival that of any US president or captain of industry, could not wait to be rid of Luck, so he took decisive action.  Gee called in favors from anyone and everyone in said network, mostly at the NCAA, to be rid of the troublesome Luck.  To Gee's relief, the NCAA took Luck off his hands and placed Luck in a do-nothing job.

The NCAA's compliance office?  Isn't the NCAA's entire existence about compliance?  Isn't that like working in the Hamburger Department at McDonald's?

Any port in a storm.  Can't tell you what satisfaction results from knowing without doubt that your suspicions and, yes, opinions were confirmed.

More Bad Luck/Bad News

Saint Oliver Luck, the man who did unto others and then split, continues to bestow blessings upon us.

His IMG radio deal, which was primarily a thumb in the eye of John Raese and other people Luck didn't particularly like, continues to resemble a dog's dinner.

The latest episode involves the web site and mobile phone app, on which WVU and MSN are prominently advertised and ostensibly have a dedicated channel.  The big Flying WV logo is there on-screen, but if you tuned in, er, make that Tuneined, last Saturday to hear the Mountaineers take on the mighty Liberty Flames you heard the radio call for...the Vanderbilt Commodores versus the Georgia Bulldogs.

Forget that radio has existed for 100 years and the Internet for the last 20-25 of those 100 years, it's clear that many things can go wrong:  dead air, static, loss of power at the stadium, lightning striking the transmitter, etc. etc.  But the one thing you don't expect is the wrong school's - make that wrong schools' - game being broadcast.

To employ one current Internet meme, You Had One Job and in this case You Had A Week - Make That An Entire Offseason - To Prepare.

Faceless individuals in the most far-flung locales around the globe can provide their fellow man with (unauthorized) video and audio streams of live sporting events on a year-round basis, but the so-called Official Partners of WVU, IMG, MSN et al cannot master the basics of delivering the audio for 11 football games lasting 3 hours each (plus pre- and postgame) to a waiting audience.

Despite the frequent, repeated miscues in this rather simple technical area, Luck was and is praised by far too many for his IMG deal, usually by those who imagine that the university has reaped millions in a windfall.  But the WVU Mountaineers are not the LA Dodgers and such riches are mere fantasy.  A sober cost/benefit analysis that includes the simple concept of ACTUALLY HEARING THE GAME might well reveal that the theory and the practice are shamefully incongruent.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Lucky To Be Rid Of Luck

What is it with my fellow West Virginians?

Jay Rockefeller is feted as a wonderful, one-of-us DC gladiator instead of what he is:  a carpetbagger, a treasonous leaker of national security data (Iraq War etc.) and a self-server of the first order.  He cares about West Virginia only because it has a border i.e. it's one of 50 states from which he could run for office with little or no opposition, thanks mostly to the state's childlike wonder at the presence of a 'millionaire.'

Oliver Luck was given similar treatment.  Most choose to ignore his uncommunicative, downright haughty and arrogant style.  You (read: we) fund the university through taxes and ticket purchases but Luck believes you are entitled to the odd scrap of information long after HIS decision has been made.  No debate, no canvassing of anyone, no consensus - merely a majority of one and off they go with their marching orders.

Well, he's gone now.  The NCAA and its law-unto-itself setup had to be irresistible to a control freak.  Warnings, investigations, sanctions...all the NCAA has to do is send a letter and institutions generally bow and scrape and don the hairshirt of self-sanctions lest they be placed in stocks in the public square by the NCAA.

Indianapolis?  What a coincidence.  If you're the Colts you now have quite a bit of leverage when it comes time for Andrew's new contract, 'cause mom and dad are in town now.  Indian-No-Place?  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.  Starkvegas is taken but Morgantown looks like Macau compared to Naptown.

The NCAA are like FIFA and the IOC:  a self-appointed arbiter of all that is good and right, raking in billions from a monopoly.  All that cash leads directly, almost certainly, to corruption.  They investigate themselves (!).  If any dirt is found, they freeze out the investigator or sack him under false pretenses!  Magically, the NCAA, FIFA and the IOC always emerge unscathed from so-called scandal.  Time to get the GoPro cameras out and catch payoffs being made in real time!

Everyone's treating this as a bump in the road for Holgorsen and the football program.  Ironically, his assistants are getting contracts and extensions but the new AD may decide to keep them and jettison Holgorsen.  Even more ironically, a successful year for Holgy will see his stock rise and increase the chances he leaves.  It's clear that he is itching like mad to return to the Big 12's home base of Oklahoma/Texas.  Easier recruiting, fans less resistant to his mad-scientist nonsense.

Milton's 'Paradise Lost' was quoted in the Star Trek episode 'Space Seed' (i.e. the one that introduced Ricardo Montalban as Khan):  'It is better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven.'

WVU will always be an afterthought in the Big 12, geographically and every other way.  There is no more Big East but the new AD had better come up with an Escape Plan, preferably by finding a way to join the SEC (perhaps Vanderbilt will follow through with its reduced emphasis on athletics and drop out).

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Parsons Out!

"Metronews’ Allan Taylor reports that WVU and long-time Deputy Director of Athletics Mike Parsons are parting company, and it’s not an amicable separation."

How to react? Relief? Elation? The mere satisfaction that something going wrong for years has finally been addressed?

Nobody has been harder on Oliver Luck than me but full marks to him for tending his own back garden and getting rid of the dead wood.

Parsons was the quintessential blowhard, issuing pompous proclamations that conflicted with reality. His focus was on his agenda and to hell with anyone with a legitimate disagreement.  The grapevine, so active in a college town, usually had the information first and accurate already, which made Parsons' PR twaddle even more risible. The only question remaining was, did Parsons himself believe it?  If so, he was unfit for purpose.

Forget the radio kerfluffle (and believe me I'd take MSN back in a heartbeat), Parsons' legacy will be the dagger plunged into Rich Rodriguez's back and allowing Ed Pastilong to take the resulting heat although Pastilong was far from blameless.  Rod's requests could have been evaluated and responded to individually.  If an NCAA rule prohibited something, then Parsons could have said so.  But Parsons seemed to take everything quite personally and so they chose to go to war and lost a quality coach and someone who loved the university and the state with every fiber of his being.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

WVU Consumed By Anger

As the pig-in-a-poke known as Big 12 membership continues to disappoint on several fronts, WVU fans are mad.

Some are strictly mad about losing regardless of conference or opponent of the day. These are also known as New Jerseyans, whose sports loyalties are usually tied solely to W-L records. Postgame analysis limited to attribution error-flavored 'We won - the opponent sucks' or 'They lost - they suck (in reference to 'their' team). They know nothing of history, tradition, or loyalty.  They arrive in Morgantown a) with inferior grades and test scores, b) a lack of funds (or an unwillingness to spend them) that would enable them to attend the plethora of schools in NJ and along the East Coast, and c) a desire to continue their fellow New Jerseyans' tradition of treating Morgantown as their personal dumpster, ashtray and bong.  Four or five years of beer pong, I'm Shmacked and blazing up and off they go.

Football, when they can be bothered to get out of bed to attend a game, is an afterthought - a long way down from its longstanding status as most visible demonstration of school spirit. But many of these students couldn't find Morgantown on a map prior to their junior or senior years in high school.  Buying tickets is too easy by half - click a mouse and that's it.  Camping out for tickets is so 20th Century, even though it's the kind of shared experience that creates a bond as well as an incentive to use a hard-won ticket.

A losing team is not worthy of their nicotine-stained, beer-soaked, selfie-taking presence.  They're mad, even if they're not sure why. They've posted all manner of duckface snaps on Facebook and Twitter in their WVU gear but their enthusiasm isn't enough to make the arduous trek to the stadium

WV true believers - at the university and throughout the state - are also mad.  Oliver Luck, the Teflon AD, is still regarded as a demigod because, well, he's intelligent.  The arrival - at an institution of higher learning chock full of advanced degrees - of one more intelligent person shouldn't be headline news but West Virginians, for all their positive qualities, are far too susceptible to the Cult of Celebrity.  The Cult has propelled a cliche-spouting, remarkably unremarkable Natalie Tennant into statewide office simply because she, er, put on some fringed buckskins and jumped around two decades ago.  So desperate are we for someone famous to disprove the stereotypes about West Virginia that any name appearing in large font becomes our Avenging Angel.  To extend the biblical metaphor, Oliver Luck is both an Avenging Angel (despite his origins in, er, Cleveland, Ohio) and a Prodigal Son.  He is, therefore, doubly insulated from criticism.

But when the football team loses, people get mad.  And if they can't direct their anger at the man who engineered the move to the Big 12 (actually, he's praised daily for his horse-trading), they will focus on the coach.

The coach, Dana Hologorsen, is an easy target.  Sold as a combination of James Dean, Jimmy Buffett and Sid Gillman, he has proven to be quite a bit more mundane than any screen, music or football icon. He's had injury problems, recruiting problems, in-game execution problems, assistant coaching problems and self-made problems when it comes to interaction with the fans.  All WVU fans want is to love their coach and get a fraction of it in return. When Rich Rodriguez returned home we had 7 years of mutual WV ecstasy. Spot The Ball and all that.

But when Rod left, we really got mad and we've been mad ever since. Even a nice guy like Bill Stewart got mad the night of the Fiesta Bowl and pep-talked his team to a staggering win.  But the fans were still mad at losing to Pitt and a shot at the national championship and eventually got mad at Stewart, along with newly-installed Oliver Luck who was mad, too, and ordered a coaching change of historically sloppy proportions. It made Obamacare look like D-Day.  Stewart, despite his gentle nature, got mad that his dream job was taken from him in agonizing slow motion and mad that he had to put a brave face on it all via the coercion of contract terms.  He then got mad when the new coach had a public (despite a desperate cover-up) incident of belligerent drunkenness and received a mere slap on the wrist - mad enough to ask a journalist or two to go beyond the official press releases and expose Holgorsen's true colors.  Eventually, Stewart was completely out.  And still mad. Mad enough that the poor man suffered a fatal stress-related heart attack, leaving his beloved only son without a father.

And now Holgorsen is mad that results have gone against him, that his team can't or won't demonstrate a working knowledge of his system or football in general, mad that the fans are mad, mad at the media. 

The media are mad at the coach for his haughty attitude.  They are mad at Oliver Luck's Berlin Wall of non-communication except for the rare press release. Some of them are mad that their monopoly - contractual or otherwise - on access to athletic coaches and broadcasting of games has been broken up.

Fans who like the Big 12 are mad at fans who liked the Big East. Fans who like(d) neither are mad WVU isn't in the ACC or SEC and mad that WVU is viewed as academically inferior and therefore unworthy of membership (despite the existence of member schools like Mississippi State, which is literally a cow college and has the deafening bells to prove it).

And so there is Anger - lots of it and with a capital A.  But with no bowl game and no football activity at all until spring, all that Anger has been bottled under extreme pressure and capped.  The Anger is now bouncing around, its particles colliding at high speed.  The Anger may fade over the bleak winter months.  It may be stilled partially by a resurgent basketball program, but it will still there in amounts large or small come August 2014.  Will the colliding particles produce useful energy or merely an uncontrolled reaction i.e. an explosion or a meltdown?

Monday, December 31, 2012

The DP phones it in to end 2012

The December 31 issue of The Dominion Post has a whopping 24 pages.  That's 3.125 cents per page at the newsstand price of 75 cents.  7 of those pages are full-color ads, leaving an even more whopping 17 pages.  That's 4.4 cents per page, much of it for wire copy you read on the internet yesterday.  One can only wonder what the Jan 1 2013 issue will bring.  Probably more of the same.

Most of the full-color ad pages are for - you guessed it - car dealerships.  They have 'clearance' sales all year long.  Who is doing the buying for these dealerships and why do they keep their jobs if the cars don't sell anywhere near full price?  Clothes I can understand.  Retailers are forced to buy size runs and the Small and Medium shirts are left on the shelf waiting for the increasingly rare skinny males to buy them.  But cars fit everyone.  If you have a lotful of previously unsellable cars perhaps you should ask your wife to pick out the colors, since your sense of fashion is obviously a marketplace failure.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

If You Luck, er, Lock Them In They Will Stay Home

WVU Athletic Director can do no wrong in the eyes of many.  The old guard are still in thrall to his days as player when he and then-new coach Don Nehlen led WVU out of the dark ages with new uniforms, a new logo (the now-ubiquitous flying WV), a new stadium, and at least a puncher's chance of competing.

Those who know Luck only as a sports business executive praise his hiring of go-go offensive wunderkind Dana Holgorsen and his deft maneuvers through the college conference minefield as guided WVU to a soft landing in the prestigious Big 12.

Luck disapproved of frequently-sparse 2nd half attendance as the masses returned to the Blue Lot to enjoy additional refreshments.  And so he banned the longstanding practice of issuing passouts i.e. allowing ticket holders to exit and return at will.  His brain wave was fourfold:

1) Keep people in the stands by banning re-entry
2) Sell alcohol in the stadium to stifle protests against access to tailgate supplies
3) Claim that it was an attempt to control consumption
4) Turn alcohol into a nice little earner to pay the aforementioned offensive wunderkind and his staff

For a season and a half it worked a treat.  Alcohol sales brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars and the cameras didn't advertise the fact that 'loyal' fans were absent late in games, regardless of opponent.  Most fans drank in moderation.

But 2012 has been a season of two halves.  A spectacular 5-0 start and national media attention in the form of poll rankings and Heisman Trophy hype for QB Geno Smith have been replaced by a 5-game losing streak and lots of head-scratching by coaches, players, fans and media alike.

Meanwhile, the grand in-stadium booze experiment has gone off the rails.  Overconsumption is now a regular occurrence along with a surprising and unprecedented number of shouting and shoving matches in seating sections where previously genteel season ticket holders are in the majority.  Despite University police, state troopers, and security flunkies glowering into the stands, many are uncowed and freely express their displeasure in hands-on fashion with those seated nearby. 

The prohibition against re-entry has, in delayed fashion, convinced many that, if the game isn't fun and the tailgate inaccessible, it's not worth the bother of fighting traffic to and from the game on Morgantown's inadequate road system.  The team's on-field implosion will be blamed but those making such excuses ignore the fact that college football bluebloods like Oklahoma coming to town for the first time still failed to draw.

West Virginians are independent-minded.  Montani Semper Liberi is not just a Latin phrase on a flag.  Cut them and they will bleed - but more likely they will take steps to avoid being cut in the first place.  The tailgate and stadium experience has been monetized while being devalued.  Fans are voting with their feet.  West Virginia football is still an unending topic of conversation throughout the state but that no longer equates to a full house.

Oliver Luck can stop them leaving but he's powerless to force them to attend in the first place.  Will this cold hard reality penetrate the shell of hearty self-congratulation at Mountaineer Field?