Rebutting the BCS: Academics Schmacademics

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Rebutting the BCS: Academics Schmacademics
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This post is part of an ongoing series called “Rebutting the BCS.” BCS officials repeatedly present flimsy excuses for rejecting a competitive post-season championship. “Rebutting the BCS” posts directly refute these BCS statements and set the record straight. Visit www.PlayoffPAC.com for other "Rebutting the BCS" posts.

The NCAA’s purpose is to “integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.”[1] Playoff PAC wholly supports the NCAA’s continual emphasis on education. Collegiate athletes should be students, first and foremost. 

BCS officials show a decided lack of respect for the NCAA’s academic mission when they disingenuously trot it out as an excuse for obstructing college football reform.

University of Oregon President David Frohnmayer, the now-retired chairman of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, said recently that existing playoffs proposals were unacceptable because “they disrespect our academic calendars.”[2] 

The Presidential Oversight Committee’s new chairman, University of Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman, later added that the BCS is superior to a playoff because it does not “interfer[e] with the academic calendar or imping[e] on the academic missions of our universities.”[3]

University presidents generally deserve deference when deciding what’s best for their students. But the claims of these gentlemen are suspect. Three facts make this clear. 

First , a playoff would require only a small number of teams to play only a few additional games. For example, in an eig ht-team playoff, two teams would play one additional game and two more teams would play two additional games. The other 116 Football Bowl Subdivision teams would play the same number of games. 

Second , nearly all playoff games could easily be scheduled between semesters to minimize athletes’ absences from the classroom. 

Third , to the extent athletes missed limited class time due to a playoff, absences would occur during the semester’s initial days and could easily be mad e up in subsequent weeks.

It’s difficult to imagine how four teams playing a handful of games almost entirely between semesters would hamper any player’s ability to graduate or earn decent grades. Yet, the BCS presidents somehow still assert that existing playoff proposals “imping[e] on the academic missions of our universities.”

The presidents’ argument doesn’t hold water, particularly when one considers the academic impact of other NCAA-sanctioned activities. 

If the Presidents worry about four teams playing one or two additional games between semesters, how can they endorse a 65-team, thre e-week NCAA basketball tournament played in March and April? 

If playoff games on December and January weekends “imping[e] on the academic missions of our universities”, why do the presidents permit their teams to schedule lat e-night regula r season contests on weekdays in the middle of the semester?

If playof f-style championships “disrespect our academic calendars,” why do other college football divisions and other NCAA sports, from fencing to field hockey, use playoffs to crown their champions? 

And if extra games for four teams actually interfere with the NCAA’s educational mission, why did the Presidents sign-off on a 12th regular season game for all teams in 2005?

The BCS presidents won’t answer these questions because they can’t. Like so many BCS arguments, academic concerns are a pretext, not a legitimate reason, for refusing to move toward a competitive postseason championship for college football.



[1] NCAA Official Web Site, Our Mission http://www.ncaa.org/wps/ncaa?key=/ncaa/NCAA/About%20The%20NCAA/Overview/mission.html (accessed Aug 2009).

[2] Bowl Championship Series Web Site, Presidential Oversight Committee Chairman’s Statement (June 24, 2009), http://www.bcsfootball.org/cfb/story/9733496/Pres.-Oversight-Committee-Chairman's-statement .

[3] Testimony of Harvey S. Perlman, Antitrust Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee (July 7, 2009), available at http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/testimony.cfm?id=3951&wit_id=8096

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