Thursday, October 27, 2011

In the blue corner, West Virginia...and in the red corner, Kentucky

West Virginia senator Joe Manchin believes that a colleague from Kentucky has some explaining to do. And Sen. Manchin is prepared to launch a Senate investigation to get the answers he wants.

The Washington Post reports that Mr. Manchin wants to know if the potential for West Virginia University joining the Big 12 conference is being undercut because Sen. Mitch McConnell wants the University of Louisville there.
In a statement Wednesday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) suggested that if reports are true that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other lawmakers have been putting pressure on Big 12 officials, a congressional investigation may be warranted.
“If these outrageous reports have any merit – and especially if a United States Senator has done anything inappropriate or unethical to interfere with a decision that the Big 12 had already made – then I believe that there should be an investigation in the U.S. Senate, and I will fight to get the truth,” Manchin said. “West Virginians and the American people deserve to know exactly what is going on and whether politics is interfering with our college sports.”
The New York Times first reported that Sen. McConnell -- a Louisville graduate, mind you -- was pushing hard to see Louisville gain the coveted admission ticket to the Big 12 conference. Currently, WVU and Louisville are part of the Big East conference, which is losing its football-playing members at an alarming rate. (Syracuse and Pitt already have bolted for the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Texas Christian abandoned plans to join the Big East in favor of a spot in the Big 12.)

Sen. Manchin is telling any media organization that will listen that a deal was in place to bring West Virginia into the Big 12 before some heavy-duty lobbying stalled that effort

In examining the West Virginia-Louisville tussle, CBS Sports' columnist Ray Ritto says no one should be surprised at the Washington shenanigans that are taking place.
To lecture McConnell or Manchin on the reasons why they were ostensibly elected is a waste of time. They long ago learned the ground rules of their business, and shame really plays no role. Working old friends for favors is a job that never ends.
But this undermines the argument people make when someone says, "The government ought to step in and do something about boxing," or, " ... lockouts" or, " ... player safety," or, " ... public money provided for private stadium construction," or, [fill in your favorite stalking horse].
You know, the argument that says, "The government has more important things to do," and "The government has no place legislating sports."
Truth is, the government is people, and people are about leverage, and leverage is about personal relationships and making sure that yesterday's guarantees are today's jolly fibs.
Now as a graduate of neither Louisville nor West Virginia, or even a frequent visitor to either place, let me assure all of you that I neither care whether they end up in the Big 12 or the Girl Scouts. I've never had to muster the Pepto Bismol to vote for or against either McConnell or Manchin. In short, I have no dog in this hunt, and if I did, I would be taking it to the pound and leaving it tied to the door knob that leads to the entrance.
But I know this. If something's important enough to a guy with an office in Washington, that guy makes time, whether it's public policy, private whim or just a good-natured neighbor-screwin'. That pretty much eliminates the whole "The government shouldn't be in the business of ..." argument.
Ah, don't you love the wonderful lesson Sen. McConnell is delivering?

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