Change isn’t always better
Brandon Scott doesn’t think that the new playoff system is any better than what was there before
Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 00:07
A plan for the Football Bowl Subdivision side of college football to have a four-team playoff was passed by the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, a group of 12 college presidents, on Tuesday in a deal that implements the new system following the 2014 season. Commissioners of the 11 BCS conferences approved the format last week.
This is unchartered territory for this level of college football, since the only playoff system ever known is in what’s considered to be the inferior Football Championship Subdivision, which Sam Houston State competed for its national title this past season.
Fans have been waiting on this moment for years, fed up with arbitrary decisions on who competes for the national championship being made by computers and committee men. Fans want this to play out on the field. They want to know for sure who the national champion is, because they’ve been trained to believe that playoff systems are what build true champions.
For most college football fans, and sports fans in general, this is a very important concept and one that seemed inevitable for the BCS to adopt eventually.
So here it is.
Following the 2014 season, there will be four teams, and the semifinals will be rotated among six bowl games over the life of the contract, which is 12 years, with the championship game put up for bid. A selection committee will still rank the teams, based on factors including head-to-head matchups and strength of schedule.
On Tuesday night (especially in Huntsville), college football fans were likely toasting to this new measure. These next two seasons of non-playoffs won’t be nearly as frustrating for them as previous ones, because they know what’s on the horizon. They know they’re own fundamental understanding of how to crown a champion in sports will be accommodated pretty soon, and they won’t have to debate on whether Oklahoma State should’ve played LSU, or if Alabama deserves to play in a championship game (even though in the end, they obviously did).
There have been more conflicts as it pertains to who should have the opportunity to play in the championship game, with schools such as Boise State and TCU creating lanes as mini-powerhouses over the past few years.
This should eliminate most of that conflict, so it’s a good time to be a college football fan.
But you know what college football fans don’t care about? Fairness.
During this past season, I had a conversation with a friend about a playoff system and why for me, it was toward the bottom of the list when it comes to what needs to be changed in college football.
During this conversation, I totally lost him.
A playoff system, as I explained, wouldn’t speak to the issue of unpaid labor and borderline dangerous working conditions. A playoff system might actually worsen these issues, I contended.
Since it raises the stakes by spiking up the intrigue, marketability and profitability, how could this playoff system be a good thing for unpaid laborers? And to be clear, a scholarship is not payment. It is not currency. You cannot buy a sandwich or take your significant other out to a movie with a scholarship. In most cases, a scholarship doesn’t allow you to send money home to your family if they so happen to need it.
A scholarship doesn’t leave you with anything in your savings account if after four years go by and it becomes painfully clear that the athlete was never an academic, and wasn’t necessarily recruited to be one (and perhaps never had the opportunity to become one because he spent so much time on the football field).
A scholarship is an accommodation, a nice gesture. It’s a bunch of good things and I wish I had one right about now. But it’s not payment.
So anyway, we’re having this conversation and my buddy says (paraphrasing), “I just care about the product on the field (not the actual people on the field). I care about football. I won’t lose any sleep over the players not getting paid.”
That’s not caring about fairness, which I guess is OK, so long as one doesn’t advocate blatant injustice in its place. But the drooling over the playoff system and indifference about how laborers are treated in the process is flagrant.
In 2010, the NCAA released a report showing 22 of 120 schools showed positive net revenue for the 2010 fiscal year, which was eight more than in 2009. These kinds of numbers create the illusion that there simply isn’t enough money to go around for the players, especially since “they already get a good deal” as another friend and employer of mine said.
The NCAA will tell you that about a 100 coaches at top-tier Division I colleges make $1 million a year or more, and a typical golf or tennis coach makes around $50,000. The reason for this is because these jobs are market driven, like the ones in academic fields: lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc.
Of course, player salaries can’t be market driven if they never actually legitimize the market, (there is, of course, an underground market we all know about, which translates into NCAA violations) right? The market for a top-tier D1 college football coach is $1 million or more. The market for a top-tier or low-tier D1 college football player is a scholarship the player already earned either in high school or at junior college.
It’s some bold stuff, when you sit back and think about it.
Consider this: The television deal for the semifinal and championship games is estimated by the Sporting News at $500 million a year, totaling out to a $6 billion TV deal over 12 years.