Parity: equality, as in amount, status, or character.
For years, the list of the best teams in college football has remained pretty much unchanged from season to season.
One could always expect to see the usual set of names in the top of the polls. Teams like USC, Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, Ohio State and Alabama.
Times have changed. New teams have joined the upper-tier of great teams while others have fallen off.
Parity is becoming more and more a part of college football.
The biggest example of this has been the rise of Boise State. A fairly decent WAC team through the early part of the past decade, the Broncos exploded onto the scene on their beautiful blue turf field under coach Dan Hawkins.
The Broncos lost only one game for three consecutive seasons and then went 9-4 in 2005. But the Broncos would make their grand appearance on the big stage in 2006.
Boise St. went undefeated in the regular season and earned an at-large berth in the Fiesta Bowl against the Oklahoma Sooners, one of college football's greatest teams.
If you know college football at all, you know what happens next. The Broncos stunned the Sooners with a variety of trick plays and put their stamp on the college football world.
This past season, the Broncos went undefeated again and beat Texas Christian to claim another Fiesta Bowl victory. With the victory, the Broncos improved their record to 27-1 over the past two seasons.
With the majority of the starters returning in 2010, Boise State will more than likely be looking at a top-five preseason ranking, maybe top three.
Yes I said Boise State. Not Oklahoma, not Texas, not Alabama or Ohio State, but Boise State.
Don't get me wrong, Boise State is not the only team that is doing this. Utah has won two BCS bowl games as a member of the Mountain West conference. TCU went to its first BCS game this season. Cincinnati has been to two straight BCS bowl games.
In the past, the term parity has been used to say that the same team doesn't win the national championship every year.
We called it parity when West Virginia went to the Sugar Bowl and beat Georgia. We called it parity when Virginia Tech and Michael Vick made the national championship. Some even called it parity when Texas beat USC who was proclaimed as maybe the greatest college team ever.
There was parity amongst the teams that "mattered." Parity meant that amongst the top-tier schools, there was a good amount of equality. The other schools didn't even matter. If they made noise, it was a miracle, not parity.
Now it is being used in the most true sense of the definition.
Not only are different teams winning titles every year, but these schools that were once thought second-tier; not good enough, are contending for the title.
In 2009, there were three undefeated teams that did NOT make the title game, one of whom (Cincinnati) was from a BCS conference. All three had legitimate cases, especially TCU, who defeated two ACC (Virginia and Clemson) schools on the road and stomped both of its main conference tests (BYU and Utah).
Many more teams that have been considered good teams, but never on the top level, have established themselves over the past several years. Teams like Virginia Tech, Florida, Texas Tech and Wisconsin. These teams were never power teams, but over the course of the past 10-15 years have truly established themselves as teams to be reckoned with.
Just the opposite has happened with schools like Florida State, Nebraska, Michigan, Miami and Tennessee. Teams like these were national title contenders year in and year out for long stretches of time, but they have fallen by the wayside while other teams have stepped into their place.
Parity has always been somewhat a part of college football. Programs have risen and fallen throughout the decades while others have steadily remained amongst the most prestigious teams year-in and year-out without fail. But these programs have always remained the same.
True parity is equality across the board, not just part of it.
This is happening now in college football.
New programs are rising to the places of prominence.
The Boise State's and TCU's of the college football world are no longer second-tier or miracles.
Will there ever be true parity? Probably not, but we're certainly heading in that direction.