The Associated Press
Stedman Bailey (right) didn't make the All-Big East first team despite 1,197 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
MORGANTOWN - When asked for his reaction to some rather odd West Virginia selections - or lack thereof - on the Big East's annual postseason all-league teams, Dana Holgorsen had precisely the right answer."I don't pay attention to that stuff,'' West Virginia's rookie head coach said. "I think [WVU director of football communications] Mike Montoro sent me an e-mail with some names on it. I didn't go through it and look. This is a team sport, so I could care less about that stuff.''And, really, Holgorsen shouldn't care. What does it matter, after all?A bunch of coaches, all with their own agendas - Holgorsen included - fill out ballots or allow their sports information people to do so. This isn't game planning. In fact, the ballots are due during game planning for most coaches, so it's usually an afterthought, if there's any thought at all.
The results, though, do make for wonderful debate among those who either care or have little else to do. I'm not sure that I fall into either of those categories - I don't lose sleep over all-star selections and contrary to what one might believe I am pretty busy most of the time - but for the benefit of those who do, well, here are some observations: Stedman Bailey was the best receiver on the best passing team in the Big East - and made more big plays than anyone - but didn't make the first team. Geno Smith led the league in total offense, in passing by nearly 100 yards per game, had the best TD-to-interception ratio (25-7) by a mile and accounted for 71 percent of the total yardage compiled by the No. 1 offense in the Big East. Yet he wasn't the offensive player of the year. And here's the one I find most intriguing: Julian Miller is about to finish a career in which he is the leading active sacker in the country. He not only leads all active players in sacks (27.5), he is ninth in tackles for loss (42.5). That he is the Big East's active leader in those categories goes without saying. Yet for the fourth straight year he is nowhere to be found on the All-Big East team.
That's right. He's not once seen his name on the official All-Big East list - first team, second team or otherwise. His name has popped up on unofficial lists - he was first team last year on the ESPN.com honor roll - but has never been handed a single piece of hardware.If I'm mystified by that, imagine how Miller feels."I don't even know,'' he said when asked for his reaction to being ignored notonce, but four times. "Honestly, I went out there, I played the game the way it's supposed to be played, I played as hard as I could, represented my school as well as I could. There's really no more that I could do.
"I guess I'm just proud to be in the position we're in now, Big East champs back-to-back and headed to the Orange Bowl. You can't really argue with that. But looking back years on down the road, it is probably going to hit that I can never say I was All-Big East anything. It's probably going to hurt a few years later down the road.''
In truth, Miller was probably hurt by his very consistency. He was never very flashy.Last year, three WVU linemen made either the first or second team - Chris Neild, Scooter Berry and Bruce Irvin. Irvin was flashy and made the first team this year and probably deservedly so. Irvin's numbers didn't approach the gaudy figures many had predicted, but he still finished with more sacks (7.5 to 6) and more tackles for loss (14-11) than Miller despite constant double teams.But it's still odd that a guy who will finish his career at least eighth on the Big East's career sack list (he would be No. 6 with two in the Orange Bowl) never made even the league's second team.Of course, it's pretty easy to imagine that Bailey's snub was due in part to the same sort of overshadowing. Tavon Austin came into the season as the guy defenses game planned against and it didn't do much good. He led the team with a school-record 89 catches and he did make the first team, along with Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu.It's hard to argue with Sanu, who caught 109 passes and broke the Big East record by 17. But while Austin had 22 more catches than Bailey, Bailey had more yards, a much higher yards-per-catch and had 11 receiving touchdowns to Austin's four.
"I was kind of disappointed at first, but it is what it is,'' said Bailey, whose highlight-reel catches far outnumbered Austin. "I feel like I had a great season and that's pretty much all that matters. It kind of motivates me to want to do a little more and try to earn some respect. But it's all right.''For the record, Bailey's 1,197 yards (and counting) rank No. 8 on the Big East's all-time single-season list."I just think it's disrespectful to Stedman,'' said Smith, his former high school teammate. "He's the best receiver in the conference.''As for Smith, he's as politically correct about his own snub as Holgorsen, passing it off as nothing that really matters in the grand scheme of things. And he's right, of course.Then again, the player who was chosen the league's offensive player of the year was Cincinnati tailback Isaiah Pead. He didn't lead the league in rushing, didn't average 100 yards and had only one more rushing touchdown than Shawne Alston.Shoot, there's probably a better case to be made for Austin as the offensive player of the year over Pead. Austin's average all-purpose yards (191.2) are the second-best in league history. As for Smith, well, it will probably be the first quarter of the Orange Bowl when he gets the 46 yards he needs to break the league's single-season passing mark.The bottom line, though, is that it's all subjective. Know this: Of the Big East's top 10 single-season passers, only two were named the league's top offensive player the year they set those marks, so Smith is in good company.The man whose record he is about to break, Louisville's Brian Brohm, is the only player in league history to pass for more than 4,000 yards. But he did that in 2007, two years after he had been named the offensive player of the year as a sophomore. In the interim, some guy named Pat White came along.In other words, none of it should matter all that much, which is a good reason to adopt Holgorsen's attitude and just ignore it.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org