Thursday, June 21, 2012

How We Got Here

I found it ironic that the announcement that there was finally going to be a playoff in college football (albeit a playoff that includes too few schools and leaves the pointless bowl structure in place) came almost 40 years to the day of the event that forever changed the nature of the game.  I'm talking about June 23rd, 1972--when President Nixon signed into law Title IX--a measure guaranteeing equal access for women to educational opportunities.

After several court rulings, it was found that Title IX didn't just apply to graduate school enrollments and the number of females in the campus workforce--but that it also applied to the number of student-athletes on scholarship.  That meant universities had to offer prorportionately "fair" numbers of sports to both men and women.  No longer could university presidents and athletic directors hide behind the old "We can't afford to have a women's basketball team" excuse.  From that point on, football would have to pay for not only its own 85-scholarships, coaching staff, travel and training facilities--but also the scholarships, coaches, travel and facilities of women's gymnastics, softball, crew, track and field and cross country--sports with no hope of ever being self-funding.

Gone were the simple goals for a football coach of beating your in-state rival and maybe going to a bowl game every few years.  The new goal: generate as much revenue as possible--by putting the maximum number of butts in the seats every Saturday afternoon in the fall.

Everything in college football is now about chasing the almighty dollar.  100,000+ seat stadiums, recruiting violations to get the best players,  the SMU "Death Penalty", 12-game regular seasons (with eight of those games at home against lesser opponents--rather than playing other big-time programs), conferences with their own TV networks, 10 teams playing in the Big 12, 12 teams playing in the Big 10, Texas Christian and Boise State playing in the Big East, conference playoff games, the Bell Helicopters Military Bowl on ESPN and ultimately the Bowl Championship Series.  Billions of dollars of revenue based on what is supposed to be an extra-curricular activity.

And despite all that cash coming in, just 69 Football Bowl Subdivision athletic departments finished in the black in 2010.  The average loss for all schools in Division 1 that year was nine-million dollars.  In this new era of government austerity, such losses at major public universities become more difficult to justify.

That's why it should come as no surprise that this new "playoff system" is not in the control of the NCAA--like every other intercollegiate sport--but is instead still controlled by the BCS and it's consortium of conferences and university presidents.  It's still all about the cash, homey.

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