*From its inception college sports have operated under the guise of amateurism to distinguish the greatness and purity of their athletic contests from the low class, largely immigrant dominated, professional sports scene of the late nineteenth century.
Also from its inception schools and universities sought to circumvent the rules to secure the best players and ensure winning athletic teams. This was done through a variety of methods: paying players, enrolling players as students who had no intention of studying, recruiting known professionals. But the breaking of rules was done for only one reason: money.
Over time the financial aspect of collegiate sports led to a system that exploited the student athletes by using them to fill arenas and increase revenue while not compensating them. I have written in support of change in that system before. But the athletes are not the only parties being taken advantage of.
The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) allows big schools (and their conferences) to take advantage of the small schools (and their conferences) in the same way and for the same reason: money.
The essence of the BCS is to ensure that the best two football teams play for the national championship. It does this by a complex formula that takes into account different polls and computer rankings to determine the best two teams. After the championship game, the other major bowl games (coincidentally the bowl games likely to have a payout large enough to ensure that the school will turn a profit for the year) get to choose which teams to invite with a few guidelines based on conference affiliation.
The BCS is a system of ensuring that the schools from what have been deemed the power conferences (Big East, Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference, Big Ten, Big Twelve, and Pacific Ten) continue to get paid out at the most lucrative and prestigious bowls. And because the payout is shared among all conference members, in essence the BCS is a way of ensuring that the rich get richer.
It is this aspect of the BCS that should be so odious to college football fans and Americans in general. The BCS is artificially propping up the football programs of teams who happen to be in certain conferences to the detriment of other teams who happen to be in the “wrong” conferences; this happens regardless of how well the teams are performing. This season Boise State was kept out of one of the major bowl games and the larger payout even though they were a top ten team all year. The money that they should have been given as an invitee to a major bowl will instead go to a school like Indiana – a perennial doormat in the Big Ten Conference.
This fundamental tacit barring of access to the bigger bowl games is akin to creating a permanent second tier of football teams. Furthermore the fact that the national championship game is dictated by ranking systems that favor the power conferences makes college football the most undemocratic system in American sports.
When American colonists found themselves outside of the decision making process and not sharing in enough of the profits they rebelled. When southerners found that the decision making process would not favor them, they rebelled. When the Allies powers found that Germany, Italy, and Japan would have eliminated choice in decision making they fought. No one likes dictatorships, yet that’s exactly what the BCS has instituted.
The BCS is the worst kind of system that perpetuates inequality on a large scale and effects local economies across the country.
So when is the revolution?
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org