College Football: An Exploration Into Ineqaulity

December 2, 2011

Political Theory, Uncategorized


After the 1900’s and before 1998 college football resembled the golden age in Rousseau’s state of nature. To call this era of college football the “happiest and most stable of epochs”, as Rousseau did when defining the golden age, would not be unwarranted.  In this era college football had progressed past its infantile and savage stages and was not yet solely an egocentric system that tried to determine and reinforce who the best was.

The 1997 Micghigan National Championship ring. The last fair National Champions.

During this time period the differences between teams were natural, in the sense that the best team always won based on abilities that all teams had access to. Each team had as great a chance at success as the next, and what differentiated them were the natural differences in these abilities. Similar to Rousseau saying, “whoever sang or danced best, whoever was the handsomest, the strongest, the most dexterous, or the most eloquent, came to be of most consideration”  when discussing superiority amongst men, the superiority of a team depended on whoever trained the hardest, whoever was the most talented, and whoever had the best quality of coaching that year. In this period teams such as San Diego State had the same chance to win the National Championship and receive all the accompanying benefits as Michigan.

Yet, this all changed in 1998, with the implementation of the BCS bowl system.

For those unfamiliar to college football, there are four major bowls (post-season games) with large monetary payouts, which the best teams in college football for one season play in. The teams that are selected in the four major bowls were primarily decided upon by voters, barring the Rose Bowl. Meaning almost any team could get an invitation to play and receive the large cash reward that came with it.

In 1998 out of a desire to create a “fair” selection process to decide the best teams in the nation, six of the major college football conferences decided to make an intricate selection program to determine the best teams in college football called the BCS. Yet this system was the antithesis of fair. As Rousseau says when discussing the creation of property, “As the most powerful (…) considered their might (…) as a kind of right to the possessions of others, equivalent, in their opinion, to that of property, the destruction of equality was attended by the most terrible disorders.” In the same sense, the six most powerful conferences created an exclusive system in which natural ability no longer coincided with excellence, and they were the sole beneficiaries. This is because the six conferences that made the BCS, made it so that each of them were always guaranteed a spot in the major bowls, while every other conference had to fight for the remaining one or two openings, effectively depriving certain teams of their right to play . By doing this they made the major bowls, and the revenue that came with them, almost exclusive to the six conferences involved in the BCS’s creation.

When college football adopted the BCS as its method for selecting bowls, actual ability was no longer necessary to achieve success in football. It was no longer required for teams to be intrinsically good to take part in a major bowl, such as an eight and four UConn team in 2010; rather it was based off of an unequal social contract. In this sense, teams such as Boise State, which in 2010 had a twelve and one record, are unjustly discriminated against in college football solely because they are not a part of a major conference. So as the upcoming bowl season approaches I encourage people to really look at what is happening, and if Michigan does get selected to play in a BCS bowl do you think we really earned it?

Denard's post-victory speech.

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9 Comments on “College Football: An Exploration Into Ineqaulity”

  1. Jason Cohen Says:

    There is alot of outcry regarding the changing of the BCS system. Now for obvious reasons, it does create inequality amongst the smaller Universities. However, take a look at a team like Boise State. They are able to recruit year in and year out and qualify for a BCS bowl game regardless of what conference they are afilliated with.

    People hate on the BCS system, but honestly I don’t see much changing in the near future. The system is just way too lucritive for those bowls. By destroying that system and making a playoff, too much money would be lost in these athletic departments. Yet, I do agree each school should have a fair chance of making it to a major bowl game and the BCS does not provide that.

  2. jrsmyth177 Says:

    I feel like every year ESPN always tries to diminish the BCS system. The argument always comes up around this time. I think you brought the argument up perfectly. ESPN’s main claim every year is that the BCS creates an unequal chance for smaller schools in smaller conferences to compete in a at-large bowl. ESPN uses Boise State, and this year Houston to back up their claim. They say that when smaller schools go undefeated they get passed up by bigger schools in better conferences. For example this year Houston will most likely go undefeated. If all plays out Houston and LSU will be the two undefeated teams, but they will not play each other for the National Championship. Instead Houston will get passed by teams from the SEC and Big 12 just because they are not in the best conference. I think Rousseau would definitely agree that the BCS created inequalities. The BCS says that just because a school is in a bigger and better conference they are better than the smaller schools. I think he would say the BCS is a trick implemented by the powerful conferences in order to maintain their power from smaller schools such as Boise State and Houston.

    Honestly I think that the BCS is a scam. The BCS is all about the money. As a Michigan fan I definitely believe that we deserve a BCS bowl, but I think the only reason we will get it is because of money. The bowl selections focus on the name of the school. They know Michigan will bring more money to the game than Houston. This is kind of unfair. Of course the bigger schools are going to bring more money to the bowl than smaller schools. I think the bowls should not worry about the money; rather they should focus on putting on the best matchup.

  3. ndreynolds864 Says:

    I do agree when you say that the BCS is primarily a system set up for monetary motives but at the same time I think the BCS is a fair representation of the best teams in football with an exception of a few teams each year. If you make the argument that teams don’t deserve to be playing the BCS like UConn then who does because every year the top 5 teams in the BCS could probably beat every other team in the country. So if you want the best teams in the country to be playing in the BCS then some would argue why not let 4 or 5 SEC teams play in the top bowl games because few will argue against them being the best. In my opinion the BCS is a fair representation of every region in the nation and its motivation is to one, pick the best team and two, to have games that appeal to every market in the nation to make the most money. The BCS has done a good job picking the best team each year since its been adopted and it has also provided historically memorable game. How to make the most money will end up winning in the end whether they change or abolish the BCS but either way the most important goal should be finding a system that celebrates the best team each year.

  4. evanhw Says:

    Although I am fairly content with the current BCS system, I believe a playoff series would be the better alternative. In regards to Boise State, a playoff system would allow them and other non-BCS conferences contenders a chance to beat the best of the best without being discredited by the fan/coaches poll. Essentially, the BCS system makes the regular season a playoff between the 65 BCS teams and belittles all other competition mainly due to financial engrossment. I would agree, however, with the fact that the Mountain West Conf. is a joke, but regardless Boise State was never really given the chance to play the best of the best. Implementing a playoff system has already worked in all other divisions in college football and has proven in other sports to create even more late season excitement and higher revenue. Ultimately, this system works because it decides the national champion in the fairest way. Obviously the BCS system allows for more bowl games, allowing more teams to win a final big game, but that’s what the conference championship is for. Also keep in mind that all the bowl games would probably remain intact as the playoff games leading up to the national championship. As a U of M football fan, all I’m interested in is winning a National Championship. Teams would be able to play their best and most prepared games in a 4 or 5 game playoff, allowing the best teams to be filtered in the least controversial fashion.

    Rosseau clearly promotes equality, but when regarding the equality of state law he also stresses the importance of “wiggle room” to change restrictions that are unjust and don’t ultimately create the best situation for whatever particular system or structure is at risk. Old philosophies on equality are hard to apply to most modern institutional discrepancies, yet in my opinion “Roos” would want the BCS system to determine the #1 team in the fairest, most unbiased way possible -the “head to head” playoff system.

  5. jgurwitch Says:

    I think there will be a combination of earning the bowl (if we get it) mixed with who we are as a school. Michigan has been notorious as one of the most dominant football programs in college history. We continued to dominate until a few years ago when Rich Rodriguez really messed everything up. We had a few unsuccessful seasons and finally became relevant again this year. With all of that input, college likes seeing Michigan dominate again. Just like before, Michigan was always one of the top teams and it is nice to see them coming back on top. Just having the name of Michigan can give us the bump to be playing in a BCS bowl regardless of if we deserve it more than other schools. Sure we had a difficult record and played well, but some schools can in fact be more deserving. Sometimes though that might not be a factor since the name is not as big as Michigan.

    As you mentioned before, a school like Boise State was not chosen simply because of their conference, even though they did dominate all of their games. Our conference mixed with some of our wins could be enough to put us over the hump to being in one of the games. It is an unfair process sometimes, but a lot of things are that same way. Certain teams will consistently control the leader board and that is because of whom they are. Michigan being good again can excite college and the ratings and that can all have some control as to if we get a bid or not. It is not necessarily the fairest way to make all of the decisions, but it is the way the decisions are made now and that is how it is going to be. If this method has Michigan as one of the Bowl games, I know I would not argue against the way the decision was concluded. Usually the most powerful will succeed, and it is nice to see Michigan atop the chain again.

  6. julieele Says:

    The BCS system does indeed create inequality. Before the implementation of the BCS system, all of the teams had the same amount of opportunity to win a national championship. There was equality once every team had a chance to win the title. It was more based on the quality of the teams playing rather than their reputation or the amount of money the team can bring in. Through a national championship, teams could say that they earned it their way to the top. The BCS system just shows how corrupt society is today and how everything seems to revolve around money. It gives smaller schools less of an opportunity to succeed. Bigger schools with bigger names do indeed have a larger fan base. This in turn can bring in more money for the school as well as the sport but the BCS system basically negates the importance of smaller schools. Smaller schools are forced to compete over limited invitations to the different bowls. I don’t believe that this system truly determines the best team because team performances can fluctuate from year to year even though some schools will always seem to be the best. I believe the best way to avoid this is to do a national championship.

  7. masonbear Says:

    The topic of BCS bowls has always remained a controversial topic for sports commentators and fans alike. While the post brings up the question of whether certain teams are “bowl worthy” and smaller teams are underrepresented I would like to address a different question. It goes back to the implementation of the BCS bowl system in 1998. Do the teams that qualified for the first bowl games hold an unfair advantage due to the monetary value that came with the BCS bowl games. As those teams received a large monetary kickoff from the start did that money work to fuel their football program through aspects of scholarships, higher paid coaching staffs, and better facilities? (Therefore giving them an edge over the competition for the next year). This can be likened to the socioeconomic idea that the “richer get richer while the poorer get poorer.” I ask the question: Do the best teams get better while the worse teams continue to decline? And if so, would you relate this to the finances received from playing in a BCS Bowl game?

  8. benjadler Says:

    First of all, this is a great post, and GEAUX BLUE! Sugar Bowl! With that being said, first of all, Boise State at 12-1 last year had no case to go to the title game since both teams ranked 1 and 2 (Auburn and Oregon, respectfully) were undefeated and played tougher schedules. However, Michigan this season has made it to the Sugar Bowl and part of the committee’s decision was based on the fact that Michigan travels very well to bowl games (what can I say, we have the largest alumni network in the country, and who doesn’t love Michigan!). The Sugar Bowl committee wants to fill the city of New Orleans with as many fans as possible from both sides and felt that they would be better able to do that with Michigan and Virginia Tech, both power football programs, over up-and-coming teams like Baylor, Boise, and Kansas State. While these programs have had success in the past (and Boise more recently) there was no guarantee that their fans would flock to the Bayou to see the game as much as Michigan or Va. Tech fans would. The bowl system is no longer fair, since schools with more powerful programs, stronger fan bases, and more money can dominate in this fashion, however, we are Michigan and finished 10-2 in the Big 10 and beat Notre Dame as well. With this record and strength of schedule, we were as fair of a candidate as any of those other 3 schools.

  9. samdickstein Says:

    The BCS only seems to care about money and lucrative matchups that will draw the biggest audiences. When thinking along these lines they only seem to care about 60 some odd major conference schools. As Evanhw said the BCS essentially makes the regular season a playoff for the 65 chosen BCS teams, but I have to disagree with his argument excluding Boise state exclusively because they’re in a conference that is a joke. Boise state continually tries to play against major conference teams in their out of conference schedule, many of which shy away from playing them because of the chance they have to ruin they’re season by giving them an early loss. I do like the idea of a 4-6 team playoff at the end of the season, but this still would be an exclusive system that would deny a majority of the small conference teams the right to play. Maybe a larger tournament pool such as 10-16 teams would work best.

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