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Mitch Vingle: Senate hearings, WVU football and Playoff questions

The views from here:

n With all due respect to “American Muscle,” the most fascinating television show aired Wednesday night was a replay of a United States Senate hearing on C-SPAN2.

That I just typed that is more surprising than when Roberto Benigni won an Oscar in 1999. Yet it’s true. I did watch the hearing, chaired by our own Sen. Jay Rockefeller. And I was fascinated.

The hearing dealt with college athletics and academics, but focused on the NCAA, specifically President Mark Emmert, who was there to be skewered and to testify.

If you have a chance, check out a replay. Here’s a taste of what you missed.

“I feel sorry for you,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said to Emmert. “I can’t even tell whether you’re in charge or whether you’re a minion [to the universities]. If you’re merely a monetary pass-through, why should you even exist?”

WVU’s Bob Huggins has been asking that question for years. Rockefeller added this:

“I don’t see how a multi-billion-dollar commercial enterprise can merely be an amateur pursuit. I don’t see how the NCAA will ever be capable of truly making a safe, quality educational experience for students their No. 1 priority.”

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., spoke of a possible bill that would disband the NCAA. Also, as our David Gutman reported, Rockefeller criticized WVU’s move to the Big 12.

“[It] guarantees one thing and one thing only,” Rockefeller said. “That most of the people of West Virginia, who are not high income, or even moderate income, can’t go to any games in the Southwest, but WVU sure makes a lot of money from it.”

Rockefeller seemed to dismiss the reforms in the works from the power conferences and at times expressed flat-out disgust. “This country is so soaked in the culture of ESPN ... it’s undermined our values,” he said, before adding that “we haven’t accomplished much” in the hearing.

Expect a follow-up calling the college presidents to the carpet. Both Rockefeller and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., spoke of doing just that.

n This past April 1, I reported WVU was in negotiations with Tennessee and Virginia Tech for future non-conference football games. A check in Morgantown brought news that both are still on track to be announced in very the near future. The Tennessee game will be played in Charlotte, N.C., in 2018, and the Tech game will be in the Washington area in 2017.

n Journalists across the country were salivating over the thought of cornering LeBron James for a moment Wednesday night.

WVU’s Juwan Staten, however, did just that. He not only cornered James, but posted an “EpicSelfie” with The Decision maker from a basketball court in Las Vegas. The two were there for James’ Skills Academy, which included only the 30 best college players and 80 best high school players.

Staten’s inclusion was a nice honor for last season’s top Big 12 scorer. Only five other league players — Iowa State’s Georges Niang, Kansas’ Perry Ellis and Kelly Oubre, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield and Kansas State’s Marcus Foster — were invited. Those invited have been going through four days of competitive skills workouts and 5-on-5 competitions.

n I was reading up on the so-very-creatively named College Football Playoff the other day.

One aspect puzzled me. One aspect concerned me.

First, the selection committee, which will slot the teams, will meet in person in Dallas on Mondays and Tuesdays starting in late October. Each will devise a Top 25. The committee will then whittle its pool of teams into groups of six and then three until it arrives at a consensus Top 25.

My question: Why?

The regular season doesn’t conclude until Dec. 6. Is it really necessary to gather the committee members — of which WVU’s Oliver Luck is one — to Dallas every week in November? Whatever Top 25 list issued then will simply be for entertainment purposes, right? Seems to me the only time the committee really needs to meet in person is at the end.

Of more concern, though, is a statement made by Playoff director Bill Hancock. He said the “committee’s charge is to use common sense and to consider strength of schedule, conference championships won, head-to-head [results] and results against common opponents.”

The first three of those standards are fine. But the last goes against a previous emphasis. If results against common opponents are in play, expect piling on like never before.

Some in these parts have wondered if Monongah native Nick Saban might take it easy on his home state’s land-grant institution if his Alabama team gets a big lead in the season opener against WVU.

Well, if results against common opponents are a standard, ol’ Nick certainly won’t call off the dogs — not if he knows a spot in the Playoff might come down to his Tide or, say, WVU opponents Texas or Oklahoma.

Then again, there’s a good chance he might not take it easy anyway.

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, or follow him at

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