Why Are People Surprised that the BCS Exists?
By: Joshua Chamberlain
Posted: January 1, 2012
It amazes me that people are still amazed by the existence of the BCS.
It is New Year’s Day, and #7 ranked Boise State has already played its bowl game, having stomped on their Automatic-Qualifier opponent, Arizona State, 56-24 on December 22nd. The game was obviously not close, and Boise State won a game everyone knew they were going to win. Hell, the team from the non-AQ conference couldn’t even throw out the “nobody believed in us” line when they won.
Boise State has lost three games – total – in the last five years. In no year have they lost more than one. Still, in that time they have gone to one BCS game and, it could be argued, have never been seriously considered as an option for the national championship game. Boise State’s situation is frequently used by people as an example of why the BCS is a sham and why we should all be up in arms about the lack of a football playoff. In short, people are amazed that the BCS still exists since Boise State is such an obvious example of its ineptitude.
I, for one, am amazed that people are amazed.
It takes only a cursory glance at the college football machinery to figure out why the bowl system works the way it does. It is, in the end, about money, though you don’t really need to go in-depth to figure that out. Frankly, that is not the point.
The point is that, as sinister as it may look, the ability to let that money affect our decision-making is something very basic within all of us. To say it is about the money is overly simplistic. Not even the money, itself, is about the money.
Though I have never been in the type of dealings that produce such convoluted institutions as the BCS, I have a hard time believing they take place in the smoky, dimly-lit backrooms portrayed in the movies. I highly doubt that money is even mentioned before these decisions are made. The decision-makers need to maintain plausible denial, and outright bribery is difficult to deny with any type of plausibility.
Instead, it is about changing the reality for all those involved. If a college president’s salary goes up, that president will immediately see the situation very differently. If the schools make money (thus satisfying the demands of the board of regents or other higher-ups), the presidents make money (thus making the presidents, themselves, happy), and the consumers continue to tune in (thus making the TV networks willing to continue to pay for the rights to these games, thus perpetuating the system), what is the motivation to change? A belief in working for the greater good? Nonsense.
Companies exist to make money. That’s it. My guess is that about five minutes after the division of labor progressed from bartering to a system of currency, there was a guy trying to make more of that currency. It is in our DNA. In the arms race that is college athletics, the schools must operate in much the same way to stay competitive. There is a lot on the line.
We all like to make grand proclamations about working for the greater good, but how many people actually do it? Our *seemingly* selfish behavior is a logical reaction to our own individual realities. That is as true for Joe Schmo as it is for the BCS directors and school presidents. If I made $1 million each year, I would probably view the world differently than I do. That being said, I never considered eating Ramen noodles for every meal in order to donate more money to the needy. I’m not a saint, and neither are you.
Back to the BCS:
Does this make what they do right? No, it doesn’t. I hate to see the Boise States of the world not get a chance at winning a championship based on people’s decision-making rather than on their own merit.
Does this make the BCS the best thing for college football? No, it doesn’t. It is difficult to make that argument when so many fans, myself included, are clamoring for a playoff.
Am I amazed, given the amount of public anger, that the BCS still exists? Of course not.
Of course, given that it doesn’t look like my Golden Gophers will be in BCS contention any time soon, my perspective on the matter might be skewed.