Boise State rumored to be involved in Mountain West expansion; molehills rumored to be mountains

There are two things in this world that I cannot stand: misleading headlines and Graham Watson.

On Wednesday, I was treated to both.

Watson, in her eternal wisdom, wrote a post titled "Boise State to the Mountain West? Perhaps," which could just as easily have been titled "Things I think when I've had too many diet Shastas." Nowhere in her quotes from the MWC conference did anyone mention Boise State, yet Watson still managed to set off a firestorm of conversation around the web on when, why, and how the Broncos will be joining the Mountain West.

The Idaho Statesman's Chadd Cripe picked up the story, and at least he had the sense not to sodden his headline with personal opinion. He saved it for his final paragraph, where soddened personal opinion belongs.

Thompson, speaking at the Mountain West media days, said expansion is discussed in nearly every meeting of league directors but they haven’t gotten into specifics, according to a blog post from ESPN.com’s Graham Watson.

...

Boise State is the only team available that would pad significantly the Mountain West’s BCS resume.

Dr. Saturday, one of the biggest college football bloggers in the country, was another to catch wind of Watson's yarn-spinning.

Even hypothetically, there's only one plausible team in the Mountain West's geographical footprint that could possibly "strengthen the BCS cause" in time to make a dent before the next BCS contract is up for renogotiation: Boise State.

Cripe and the Doc were simpling rehashing relevant news about the topic they cover. There's only one problem: It's not really news.

Watson's story is misleading journalism at its finest.

She took a well-researched, informative story on the Mountain West's desire to expand to 10 teams, and she turned it into rampant speculation passed off as fact. I managed to pull this off in my college newspaper's sports section; she has managed to do it on the technopages of the Worldwide Leader in Sports.

When I first saw her headline yesterday, I scurried over to her webpage (the Caldwell of college football blogs) to see what all the fuss was about. I figured that some spirited MWC coach or player had shared feelings on his desire to see the Broncos in the conference. So I looked. And I looked. And not once did I see anyone mention Boise State by name or even a hint that the MWC decision makers were leaning toward a certain team. There was nothing about the Broncos that came from the Mountain West media days. The "news" came from Graham Watson.

On the most basic level, Watson did what she is paid to do: get people to her website. But at what cost? Journalism ethics? Integrity? Maybe I'm the only one who sees it this way, but I can't imagine that I'm the only one who read her story thinking that Boise State news was prominently involved, only to be duped into reading a bunch of quotes on a topic we have already covered ad nauseum.

The real news, that the MWC would add another team if it helped them get to a BCS game, is nothing new, and the notion that Boise State would be that team is nothing that Paul J. Schneider hasn't mentioned before, nearly a year prior.

In essence, the storyline out of MWC media days is that the Mountain West confirmed that it is open to expansion to 10 teams, provided the conference can figure out scheduling and that the incoming team adds value to the MWC's BCS resume. But we fans have been talking about this for months on end. For goodness' sake, I've made a wall calendar of the Broncos' potential MWC conference schedule. It's in my desk drawer. Next to the potential 16-team playoff bracket.

When Bronco fans read the news, they might think that something big is afoot in the world of Western non-BCS conferences. Not so fast.

The only news is that the MWC has talked about expanding to 10 teams. End of story. Or, as Graham Watson would put it, "Boise State to join the Pac-10? Perhaps."

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