With Navy having dispatched Army for the ninth straight year last weekend to close the Division I-A College Football regular season, we now move into College Bowl Season, which I regard as one of the most wrong-minded, mismanaged, blatantly venal, dishonest, disreputable, disappointing and despicable spectacles in modern American sports. In every other NCAA-sanctioned team sport at every other level (including Division I-AA, II and III for football), teams are selected for post-season tournaments based on some defined blend of automatic bids for conference winners and at-large bids for other worthy participants, and the teams take to the field, or the ice, or the court, and they play each other until one team remains standing, and that team is judged the champion. But this is not the case when it comes to College Bowling for Corporate Greedheads.
Sure, in the highest tier of college football, there’s something called “The BCS Championship Game,” but the process for selecting its two participants hinges on an arcane system of polls and computer statistics, and is fundamentally biased against a group of schools who are outside of a television contract related to the laughably-titled Bowl Championship Series (BCS).
There are eleven conferences (plus a trio of independents) playing at the Division I-A (BCS) level, but only six of those conferences (plus one independent) are guaranteed bids in the five television-contract-backed, high-payout BCS Bowls, while the other five conferences have to jump through absurd hoops to get an opportunity to play for the big bucks.
Supposedly, they’re supposed to just be happy about winning their conferences and playing good games in the also-ran bowls. But this would be like a pro football team winning its conference, and deciding not to play for the Super Bowl, because the competition was so good and rewarding in the NFC West this year that nothing else is required, except for maybe a friendly game against a nice team from the AFC South. Balderdash!
This biased system results in cases, year after year, where arguably superior, oftentimes undefeated teams are locked out of the big money bowls, while mediocre conference champions (especially from the Big East and Atlantic Coast Conferences) get automatic bids into the BCS games. This year, 8-4 Connecticut, champion of the lackluster Big East, will receive $17,000,000 for playing in the Fiesta Bowl, while 11-1 Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference (who lost their sole game by a field goal to conference rival and fellow one-loss team, Nevada) plays 10-2 Utah of the Mountain West Conference in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl for a $1,000,000 payout. This is just wrong, especially as you’d be hard pressed to find any serious college football follower who would lift up Connecticut as a superior team to Boise State or Utah. Or Nevada, for that matter.
If the schools from the five non-BCS, Division I-A Conferences aren’t going to be treated exactly the same way that their BCS brethren are, then the NCAA really should demote those five conferences to the I-AA level, so that they can compete fairly for titles without being handcuffed by their conference affiliations. There’s no justice in a system that accords them all Division I-A status, but treats some schools as more worthy than other schools, solely because of their likely draws on network television. That’s patently absurd and unfair.
The Evil Corporate Greedheads behind the BCS System routinely tout tradition and heritage as reasons for preserving their ridiculous winter rite of exploitation and unfairness, but this rings as hollow as anything else that falls out of their venal, unsportsmanlike, soulless skulls. There are 35 Bowl Games being played this year (!), and most of them are less than five years old, and serve no purpose other than to provide name recognition for their corporate sponsors among the most die-hard boosters of the various mid-achievement teams that will play in most of them.
But let’s be real, here: did Knute Rockne coach the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame to triumph in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl, once upon a time? Or did Red Grange ever gallop to victory with Illinois in the GoDaddy.com Bowl? Or was there a time when Bear Bryant coached a Ken Stabler-quarterbacked Alabama to a win in the Meineke Car Care Bowl?
No, no and no. And no. And no again. No, no, no, no, no. This system is dishonest, immoral, and deplorable, and it’s resulting in some real traditions and heritages being destroyed, as teams scramble to position themselves for the biggest payouts, jumping conferences, breaking up traditional rivalries, destroying long-standing affiliations, and doing whatever it takes to slop at the BCS money trough, since just playing great football apparently isn’t enough.
In case you don’t have an accurate sense of how strongly I feel about this, here are five more fun facts related to this year’s Bowl Season that you might find amusing:
1. The total payout to the 70 teams participating in this year’s 35 bowl games is $268.4 million dollars. 64% of that ($170.0 million) goes to the five BCS Bowl Games’ participants. 90% of that amount ($153.0 million) will be going into the six BCS conferences, who claim nine of the ten available slots this year.
2. In order to be eligible for a bowl, teams only have to win six games. There are 120 teams playing at the Division I-A level, so it can be a stretch to get to 70 eligible teams. This year, there were only five teams with at least six wins who did not get an invitation to a Bowl, and one of them (Southern Cal) is on probation. That leaves Temple (8-4 overall, 5-3 in the non-BCS Mid-American Conference), Western Michigan (6-6 overall, 5-3 MAC), Arizona State (6-6 overall, 4-5 in the BCS Pacific-10 Conference) and Idaho (6-7 overall, 3-5 in the non-BCS Western Athletic Conference) as the only eligible dancers who didn’t get invited to the party this year. While I’d say “boo freakin’ hoo” to most of them for their wan seasons, Temple probably has a legitimate beef with being excluded, since they have more wins than 32 of the 70 teams playing in bowls this year.
3. The flipside of this lack of selectivity is that there are some laughable dancers participating in the Big Stupid Ball this year, including Louisville (6-6 overall, 3-4 in the Big East), Northwestern and Michigan (both 7-5 overall, and 3-5 in the Big-10 Conference), UTEP (6-6 overall, 3-5 in Conference USA) and Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky (all 6-6 overall, with the first two 3-5 and Kentucky 2-6 in the Southestern Conference). It would seem that having a losing record in your conference might preclude an invitation to the postseason, yes?
4. It would be very telling to see how the BCS Conferences fare in head-to-head scenarios with the non-BCS conferences, but there seems to be a conspiracy to prevent that from happening, presumably orchestrated by the cowards who run the BCS Conferences, and the television hacks and flacks who empower them. Of the 35 bowl games this year, 20 of them feature BCS schools going up against BCS schools, and nine of them feature non-BCS schools playing non-BCS schools, but only six have BCS schools daring to play non-BCS schools, a fairly typical ratio over the years. So here’s pulling for non-BCS Texas Christian, Nevada, Central Florida, Southern Mississippi, Air Force and East Carolina to whip up on their BCS opponents this year.
5. The lack of selectivity and over-abundance of games results in some pretty tepid match-ups. 15 of the 35 (43%) Bowl Games being played this year feature competitors with 10 or more combined losses between them. There are only five bowl games (14%) where the competing teams have three or fewer combined losses between them. Four of those games are BCS games ($17.0 million payout per team). One of those games is the aforementioned MAACO Las Vegas Bowl, in which Utah and Boise State will slug it out for a relatively paltry $1.0 million each, for no reason other than the fact that they happen to belong to the “wrong” conferences.