Parity Reaches the BCS Title Game
It probably seems that everything that could possibly be said about the BCS title game between Auburn and Oregon has already been said.
But something that has not, to my knowledge, been addressed is the fact that this is the first BCS title game to be played without the presence of a sacred cow from the ancient days of college football.
Those of us old enough to remember the days before cable TV can remember when ABC held the monopoly on televising college football. Throughout an entire season, only a handful of teams ever had their games turned into electronic signals to be visually available to the nation.
There's no need to name them. We all know who they were. They controlled college football. They were ABC's cash cows, and since ABC was paying the NCAA huge amounts of money for their monopoly, they saw to it that those teams were always available.
All the money went to these schools and everyone else got diddly-squat.
The advent of cable TV helped to bring about the break up of that monopoly, that and the schools who joined with the CFA to sue the NCAA to end the sweet deal the few pre-eminent programs had going for themselves.
That was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when ESPN and Turner Broadcasting began to make their inroads into televising college football. CBS soon followed and by the end of that decade, almost everyone was being televised.
ABC was forced to accept what everyone had known all along: that people care about their own team. Fans of Wake Forest, South Carolina, Oklahoma State and others would much rather watch their own team play than watch anyone else's team.
At the same time, the NCAA was instituting rules to limit scholarships and to eliminate schools' practices of using scholarships for other sports to sign football players. Parity was making inroads into Division I football. A half dozen or so programs cried it was the end of the world.
Everyone else thought it was high time.
And now, roughly 30 years after it began, the National Championship game does not consist of Pampered Behind U vs. U of Spoiled Snot Rags. The title game will feature two working class teams, teams who earned their way into the game (twice each) without being propelled by a media primed to pump them from day one, no matter what.
The pumped teams fell by the wayside.
The preseason, pre-determined national champions finished in the bottom half of the SEC West. Another favorite won the Outback Bowl and another won the Sugar Bowl. All admirable accomplishments, but going into the season there was no reason to think any of them were national champion material. Going into the season there was no way of knowing who would wind up being national championship material.
But the two best teams in the country did struggle their way to the top. And in the end, neither could be denied their rightful place in the BCS National Championship Game.
Both these programs have been around a long time—Auburn since 1892, Oregon since 1893.
So don't go claiming either of them are upstarts. They're not.
Some supporters of the old sacred cow way of doing things will try to claim this was a down year for CFB. Anyone watching the bowls knows this is not true. This was a very good year for college football.
There is a new, cutting edge way of playing that is exciting to watch and fans love it. The sacred cows don't play it. That's why they're not in the title game, they're still hoping the 20th century will come back.
Does this mean the sacred cows of old have no place in modern college football? That's entirely up to them. But their place now is with everyone else. If you want it, you have to earn it.
No one has a free ticket in August to the NC game, no matter what the fans of one program in particular claimed throughout the past offseason. And it's not because the media will vote differently or fans think differently.
It's because there are teams out there that will beat you, are not afraid of you and might even get a special kick out of beating someone as arrogant as you are.
For now, the sacred cows can sit back and watch the teams that have risen to the top based purely on hard work and initiative. Neither Auburn nor Oregon are there because the media loved them or because their boosters bought enough ad time or because they had an impressive name.
They're there because they're the best in college football. And they got there the hard way, both of them having earned the spot twice.
Hats off to the NCAA for having brought about parity in Division I football. It was a long time coming and there's still a ways to go, but the sport is 1000 times better off for it.
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