The NCAA might not last all that much longer, with its inherently exploitive and morally dubious system and whatnot, but while it’s still around there’s one thing we know for sure: it will always be in the news.
This year, 2014, marks the end of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) era. The BCS was the sponsor-driven, end-of-season pageantry that pitted various big-name college football teams against one another in a somewhat arbitrary fashion. Controversy was sort of the point; the debates it generated were endless. Who should be ranked number one? How much weight should be put on things like margin of victory, head-to-head results, or strength of schedule? Should we trust the computer rankings over the voters’ opinions? How do the computers even rank these teams anyway? And, most importantly, who should get to play for the National Championship? The opaqueness of the inner workings of the system often left us with an unsatisfactory end to the season, as people questioned the validity of the rankings and the ulterior motives governing the voters.
The BCS has been replaced by the College Football Playoff, which is a sponsor-driven end-of-season pageantry that pits various big-name college football teams against one another in a somewhat arbitrary fashion. Controversy is sort of the point; the debates it generates are endless. Who should be ranked number one? How much weight should be put on things like margin of victory, head-to-head results, and strength of schedule? Should we trust The Committee’s rankings? Who’s even on The Committee anyway? And, most importantly, who should get to play for the National Championship? The opaqueness of the inner workings of the system often may leave us with an unsatisfactory end to the season, as people question the validity of the rankings and the ulterior motives governing The Committee Members.
You have to admit, this was a pretty ingenious move. What do people hate most about college football? The BCS! Well, everybody likes the way college basketball does it, right? Right, March Madness is awesome. People like brackets. In-tournament play determines the winner and (pretty much) nobody’s mad that they didn’t get a fair shot. We’ll make a bracket, too. That way everybody’s happy.
And they were. People were celebrating the death of the BCS as if they had just overthrown an oppressive dictator. But the NCAA really just pulled a Yogi Berra: eliminate the close plays at first base by moving it back a couple feet. They got rid of the computer (and, let’s be honest, college football’s target demographic probably doesn’t really trust all that newfangled technology) and added two semifinal games to the championship, but that’s it. The debates didn’t go anywhere. They still release new rankings every week, and even though they theoretically have no bearing on the final bracket, pundits still salivate over the opportunity to glimpse into the collective mindset of The Committee. What did they think of Florida State’s ugly loss, or TCU’s blowout victory?
You’re all dumb. You were duped. You fell for their ploy. They can do whatever they want with those rankings, and do you know what their primary criterion is for determining those mid-season rankings? Controversy. Because controversy means publicity, and publicity means money. What is the most controversial thing we can reasonably do? Baylor beat TCU? Cool, let’s put TCU ahead of Baylor even though they have the same record and similarly-difficult schedules. FSU hasn’t lost in two years? Awesome, let’s drop them a couple spots even though they’re the only undefeated team in any of the major conferences.
Do you realize that they could turn around and swap TCU and Baylor for no reason whatsoever, despite the fact that TCU won 55-3? How much was TCU supposed to win by? A hundred? That’s just insane. Yeah, about as insane as ranking TCU ahead of Baylor in the first place. Their records are the same, they played in the same conference, but one team has a victory over a top-5 team, and the other doesn’t. Hello! Shouldn’t this be a no brainer? I’m almost hoping Baylor loses tonight so The Committee doesn’t…
But you see, there I go again. Even I fell for it. The NCAA has us all eating out of the palm of their hand, and they’re reaping all the benefits. It’s too bad the players don’t get to see any of those benefits.