Boise St. President Commentary on the BCS
From the BSU website:
COMMENTARY ON BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
June 9, 2009
By Bob Kustra, President, Boise State University
When the Presidential Oversight Committee of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) meets next week (June 15-19 in Colorado Springs), perhaps it will consider how to apply the same values espoused and celebrated by American higher education across the nation to the most recognizable pastime and the biggest business on many university campuses — intercollegiate football. There is considerable irony in the fact that in the highest temple of political correctness, American higher education, the BCS worships the false idols of monopoly, inequity and greed at the expense of the virtues of fairness, access and competition.
The BCS is a fundamentally flawed system that is unfair in its access, governance and revenue distribution. Historically, there were a handful of power brokers in intercollegiate football that showed up year after year for postseason play in the traditional bowl games, and in those days few questioned the system.
The landscape of college football has changed dramatically over the years, especially for mid-major programs, due to the limitations on scholarships, increased marketing opportunities and the bounty of televised games that appear weekly as a result of the universities of Oklahoma and Georgia suing the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1984 over its television plan, because it violated antitrust laws. There is no question that parity among college football teams is greater than ever before in its modern history.
So you would think that when Boise State opens its football season against the University of Oregon on September 3, the dream of a national championship would beat in the heart of every player, coach, alumnus and fan. Instead, there will only be a faint pulse thanks to the constraints placed upon us by the BCS. An estimated 6,000 student-athletes play for football teams that have no realistic chance of competing in a BCS bowl, given the hurdles placed in the path of the non-BCS conferences and teams.
How can this happen when the NCAA sponsors 88 championships in almost every sport from bowling to water polo? The glaring exception is football! The NCAA does not sponsor a championship for the Football Bowl Subdivision — formerly Division I-A. This so-called championship has fallen into the hands of the commissioners of the six BCS automatic qualifying conferences. They wrote the exclusionary BCS rule that created six automatic qualifying conferences — Atlantic Coast, Southeastern, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-10 — and gives to the six conference commissioners the authority to send their respective champions to a BCS bowl regardless of how their won/loss records stack up against the champions of the non-automatic qualifying conferences — Conference USA, Mid-American, Western Athletic, Sun Belt, and Mountain West.
To take a page from recent history, in 2004 Boise State went undefeated and finished the season No. 9 in the BCS, yet was excluded from a BCS bowl while No. 13 Michigan and No. 21 Pittsburgh qualified. In 2006, Boise State went undefeated and finished the season ranked No. 8 in the BCS and was invited to the BCS Fiesta Bowl where the Broncos defeated Oklahoma in one of the greatest games ever played. In 2008, Boise State went undefeated and finished the season No. 9 in the BCS, yet was passed over for a BCS bowl while No. 10 Ohio State, No. 12 Cincinnati and No. 19 Virginia Tech were all chosen for BCS bowls.
In 2008, the University of Utah made the most convincing case for BCS reform when the Mountain West Conference school completed a 12-0 regular season, but was not given the opportunity to compete for the national championship. Utah was eliminated by a system — not a team — and further proved its championship status in a convincing BCS bowl victory over Alabama.
Exclusionary rules that produce such unfair results can only be made by a governance structure as unfair as the result, and that is certainly the case when it comes to the Presidential Oversight Committee of the BCS. George Orwell, aiming at the hypocrisy of those who claim equality for all, but reserve power for a small elite, is famous for his Animal Farm quote, “All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” So it is with the BCS power structure. The 65 schools in the automatic qualifying conferences have six votes, one for each conference, but the 51 schools in the non-automatic qualifying conferences have ONE vote total! And in a gesture to days gone by, Notre Dame has one vote as an independent all to itself.
Nowhere is the inequality of the BCS system more evident than in revenue distribution. The formula is heavily weighted toward the automatic qualifying conferences that are guaranteed a spot in a BCS game and walk away with the $18 million payout that goes with it. The automatic qualifying conferences and Notre Dame receive 90 percent of the $132 million generated by the BCS bowls, a monopoly that if uncovered in the business world would be cause for a Department of Justice antitrust investigation. If a non-automatic conference qualifies for a BCS game, 82 percent of the revenue goes to the automatic qualifying conferences and Notre Dame while the non-automatic qualifying conferences receive 18 percent of the revenue. Annually, non-automatic qualifying conferences are only guaranteed 9 percent of the total revenue to split among 51 schools. If there is a bottom line to the current BCS position, it is the monopolistic control the BCS has over the millions of dollars earmarked for the chosen few.
When the BCS meets next week, they will do so under the scrutiny of congressional oversight. Both U.S. House and Senate committees have expressed continued interest in applying the principle of fairness to intercollegiate football. The U.S. Senate Antitrust Subcommittee with the urging of Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah will be scheduling hearings soon to investigate the antitrust implications of the BCS system. Congressman Joe Barton of Texas has introduced legislation in our nation’s capital that would prevent the BCS from labeling a game a national championship unless it is the outcome of a playoff system. That is not a foreign concept for the NCAA that earns most of its revenue from its performance-based Final Four basketball tournament.
The time has come for the Football Bowl Subdivision to go the way of the other three divisions of NCAA football, basketball and its other sports and base its national championship on actual play rather than opinion polls and computers. A playoff system that is organized by the NCAA and fairly addresses access, governance and revenue distribution is the next step. Even the President of the United States has publicly endorsed a playoff system. Only then will there be alignment between the values of fairness and access so often invoked in higher education and the policies and practices of the BCS and the NCAA.