Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
The Mountain West didn’t hire a PR firm to hype No. 4 TCU and its chase for a BCS bowl, but the conference’s in-house PR department has done its fair share of campaigning for the Horned Frogs, No. 16 Utah and No. 22 BYU by targeting voters directly.
Since the BCS standings started coming out, the Mountain West has been sending information to Harris poll and Associated Press poll members touting the accomplishments of the conference’s ranked teams and comparing them to other teams in the Top 25.
The Harris Poll is one of the three elements that determine the BCS standings.
“I know that a voter isn’t going to have time to sift through all of the Mountain West press release, so I pull out the key notes that I think that they should read, that they should know about our league,” said Javan Hedlund, the Mountain West’s associate commissioner in charge of communications. “I try to provide [voters] with six, seven, eight, nine of the key points for the two or three teams that should be ranked.”
Last week, it was reported that the WAC had hired Scott Peyron & Associates, a Boise-based PR firm, to help promote Boise State. However, the PR firm sent its e-mails to media rather than voters.
While the information the Mountain West and Scott Peyron & Associates send out are similar -- facts, figures, charts and comparisons to other teams in the top 10 -- the Mountain West’s introduction to its e-mail is clearly angled toward getting votes, though it doesn’t explicitly say to vote for a team from the Mountain West.
Here’s an intro to one of the e-mails the Mountain West sent to voters on Nov. 6:
As you know, the votes in the polls that are part of the BCS rankings system will play a critical role down the stretch in determining which teams qualify for BCS games and which two teams will play for the National Championship. Attached is a chart we have compiled that you might find helpful in your Harris Poll ballot deliberations.
The Mountain West doesn’t send information to every voter every week, but makes sure that the voting public is educated about the Mountain West’s teams, especially TCU, which is not only in the hunt for a BCS bowl berth against WAC member Boise State, but also has a shot at the national championship.
The Mountain West said it doesn’t send anything to the members of the coaches' poll.
Sending e-mails to voters is not a new tactic for the Mountain West. Hedlund said the league sent out facts and figures about Utah in 2004 and during Utes’ run to the Sugar Bowl last year. Last season, those e-mails also included information about TCU, which many thought could pass Boise State had its only loss been to Oklahoma.
Hedlund defends the Mountain West’s tactics and said he doesn’t think the mass mailings should be perceived as lobbying for either the Mountain West or TCU.
“I perceive it as doing my job and my job is to promote the Mountain West Conference,” said Hedlund, who’s been with the conference for 11 years. “It’s just like sending out the stuff for All-American honors or why guys deserve to be on the first team Football Writers Association team. They’re doing the same thing. Is that lobbying because I got Alabama stuff today about their linebackers or Nebraska’s? They’re promoting their institution and their student athletes to provide coverage for them and get them accolades. I'm providing information to the media to get accolades for the Mountain West and its nine member institutions.”