LV bowl chooses right; will UNLV get it wrong?

Thankfully, things might not be as crazy around here as I feared last week.

The MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Sunday did what it needed to do in selecting Brigham Young to represent the Mountain West Conference in its game Dec. 22 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Now, if we can only convince UNLV president Neal Smatresk to drink from the same cup of intelligence and move on from this silly talk about Jim Livengood becoming the school’s next athletic director, all again will seem rational locally (besides Carrot Top’s popularity).

There is a clear connection between the choice a bowl committee made by inviting the same Mountain West team a fifth straight year and one Smatresk still must deliver.

It’s called common sense.

BYU’s continued residence in the Las Vegas Bowl has provided more than a few one-liners in this space, but they have always been offered with respect for how much the Cougars bring to the game. That hardly changes this year, when the bowl committee for the first time landed two ranked teams in BYU and Oregon State.

BYU to the Las Vegas bowl is a safer bet than ”American Idol” ratings, than Tiger Woods to a Las Vegas nightclub groupie, than Mike Sanford not taking blame.

This is how college football’s postseason works: There are four Bowl Championship Series games, a national championship and everyone else. If your bowl falls into the latter category, which most do, you pretty much have one responsibility.

Make your title sponsor happy.

You do this by creating an entertaining matchup that will draw eyeballs to the TV and thousands upon thousands of fannies to stadium seats. BYU covers all three criteria, which for the folks at MAACO should make the first of a three-year agreement with the Las Vegas Bowl quite rewarding.

This just in: Times are still tough. Money is tight. Those who selected the teams had but one requirement: to make sure the matchup passed muster with the MAACO suits writing the checks.

Was it smart business, as much as anything else, to invite BYU again?

Of course. As it should be.

Whispers last week suggested that several committee members favored Utah over BYU, the same Utah with a worse record, worse ranking, worse conference finish, which lost to the Cougars on Nov. 28 and couldn’t guarantee the same travel numbers and local fan base.

Smarter minds prevailed. While it’s our suggestion that any committee member who voted for Utah be replaced immediately on the basis that stupid people shouldn’t have such clout, it’s my hope Smatresk also realizes which avenue to avoid.

Livengood’s Pac-10 resume is long with a lot of good when it comes to balancing budgets, some glaring bad when it comes to hiring and the near-hiring of head coaches in major sports and the truth that he could reportedly soon be without a job at Arizona.

The truth: He is 64 and could be Mike Hamrick all over again, forced out at one institution only to land at UNLV. How ironic, that Livengood and Hamrick are close friends.

What would the motivation be for someone at Livengood’s stage of a career to work tirelessly in building UNLV’s athletic program other than, well, he doesn’t yet want to retire?

How inspired is Livengood to raise the Rebels to a much greater level of success compared to local candidates with a deep love for the university and extensive contacts from which to immediately raise funds, or a younger, promising candidate from a major conference ready to make his own mark on a department starving for a fresh perspective?

The important part here is that Smatresk makes the hire, something that has to be examined now when you consider the transparency of Livengood’s emergence, when you realize former university system chancellor Jim Rogers attended Arizona, has the law school named after him at Arizona and owns the television station (KVBC News 3) that broke the news about Livengood’s candidacy with an accompanying quote from Rogers.

Smatresk also is working under a two-year contract and Rogers is someone whose influence has played a significant role in who sits in the president’s office and who is removed from it.

Maybe this is all coincidence.

Maybe the dots don’t connect so cleanly.

I doubt it.

The whispers about Utah being championed at the expense of BYU were bad enough this week.

The ones about Livengood being named athletic director and bringing a defensive coordinator (Mark Stoops) with him as UNLV’s next head football coach are beyond alarming.

Here’s hoping Neal Smatresk drinks from the correct cup when making what could be the most important hire of his tenure as president.

Here’s hoping even more that he’s the one who really makes it.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He also can be heard weeknights from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on "The Sports Scribes" on KDWN-AM (720) and www.kdwn.com.

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