Where's the Equality in College Football?
The American dream is the concept that anyone from anywhere can do anything in this country if they are willing to work hard enough for it. Basically, it is the concept of an underdog.
The most popular sport in the entire country is without a doubt, football. College football has been around since the 19th century and contains unheralded pageantry and tradition like no other sport.
However, the most watched and loved sport in all of America denies the American dream.
Don’t look for equality or fairness in the world of college football, you won’t find it. Now, I’m not talking about equal talent, equal facilities, or even equal schools.
I’m simply talking about an equal and fair shot for all competitors to win it all. For every Division 1-A college football team to have an equivalent right and shot at taking home the national championship at the end of the year.
Yes, folks, it's true. Don’t kid yourselves. College football is the ONLY major sport in North America that does not have a true playoff system.
NFL: playoffs. NBA: playoffs. Every other NCAA sport (including lower levels of football): playoffs. For goodness sake, even Major League Soccer and Major League Lacrosse have playoff systems.
The college football postseason system is run by bowl games. This means there are over 30 bowl games throughout the country in which qualified teams (usually tied in with their conference) are invited to participate in.
The biggest of the bowl games, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), is run by a group of computers putting together a formula to decide who is qualified to participate in their party. The top two teams with the highest formula score at the end of the season play for the national championship.
The BCS is specifically set up to allow the six champions from “powerhouse” conferences an automatic bid into one of the BCS games. There are 12 division 1-A football conferences. You can do the math on what percent don’t get automatic bids to the BCS.
So wait, why wouldn’t the most popular sport in America have a playoff system to determine its champion? The answer is simple and common to many other problems in this country: greed.
The college football bowl system is an economic monster that rakes in millions. The bigger bowl games are sponsored by huge corporations who make a killing off of the game and the publicity that comes with it.
Tostitos, FedEx, Allstate, and AT&T are just some of the corporations in charge of specific bowl games. Also making a fortune are the top-tier football teams that participate in those bowls.
If you’re in the high rollers club, you’re school is easily raking in AT LEAST $7.5 million for taking part in a big-time BCS bowl game.
The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.
Now notice what I said. The top tier teams of the college football world rake in the money from these bowl games. There are four BCS bowl games and the BCS national championship game.
The payout for the champion of those games is about $17 million and the loser is subsequently a meager $7.5 million. That means 10 teams (many the same ones year after year) are walking off with millions and millions of dollars for playing one game.
There are 120 Division 1-A football teams. So that leaves only 110 college teams that will not be taking home a paycheck big enough to build a new athletic complex or stadium.
Sure, there are 30-plus bowl games every year and over 60 teams take part in the bowl festivities. However, don’t kid yourselves again.
The money in the majority of the bowl games is nowhere near the astronomical figures of the BCS. The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl has a winner’s payout of $750,000. $17 million to $750,000. No…there’s no ridiculously unfair disparity in college football.
No, you still don’t believe that gap matters that much? Ok, I’ll give you more straight numbers.
Last season, the University of Hawaii became only the third “non-BCS” school to make it to a BCS bowl game. That is, they were not from one of the six powerhouse conferences that have an automatic bid to a high-paying BCS bowl game.
Their opponent’s coach, Georgia’s Mark Richt, had an annual salary larger than the entire operating budget of University of Hawaii football.
Well, there’s never been any real controversy with this system that merits a playoff system, right? Wrong. In 2004, the Auburn Tigers finished the season in the toughest conference in America (SEC) undefeated.
The Tigers went 13-0 and had a perfect storybook season except for one minor detail. Auburn didn’t win the national championship. In fact, they weren’t even given the chance to play for it.
The computers told us that the Tigers were the third best team in the country, even though a team in front of them already had a loss.
In 2004 and 2006, Utah and Boise State went undefeated and broke into the BCS bowl games respectively. However, neither team was given a chance to play for the national championship basically on the argument that they were from a weaker football conference (one without an automatic BCS bid) and therefore were not qualified to be national champion.
Both teams defeated their bigger more publicized opponents in their BCS games and showed the world that the “smaller and weaker” teams could compete with the big boys.
I’m not here to give you the perfect playoff system that college football needs to convert to. That should be decided by a qualified group of coaches, bowl game operators, and schools to make sure that the integrity of college football is not tarnished and that revenue can still be maintained at a high plateau.
I simply ask that the playoff system is reasonable and rewards great teams with outstanding records regardless of what conference they come from. Bowl games can still be a great reward for many teams that have winning seasons but aren’t national championship material.
I just think the college football playoffs shouldn’t be just two teams. There are way too many teams in the country to be sure who are the top two year-in and year-out.
Now all I’m asking for is equality. The chance for every team in America to point towards the National Championship Trophy and say, “If we do everything right and win every game, that prize is ours.” However for the majority of teams in today’s system, perfection isn’t near good enough.
This is the United States of America; even the underdog should have a shot at claiming the top prize.
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