As the Michigan Wolverines march forward with great chances of a BCS bowl berth, and selection day looms in the distance, it becomes the time of the year where everyone hates the BCS system. Standing for Bowl Championship Series, the BCS is the postseason system for College Football. For the past decade and maybe longer, the BCS has taken a lot of heat for being an unintelligent and unfair system. I’ll start this post quick rundown of how the BCS works for those who are unfamiliar. The system revolves around 35 postseason bowl games, five of these being deemed the prestigious BCS Bowl Games. The system is also paired with a BCS ranking system which combines computer made rankings with human voter rankings to compose a list of the BCS top 25 teams. One of the five BCS bowls is the National Championship that year, and pits the top two ranked teams in the BCS against one another. The rest of the bowls are more complicated. While some bowls have scripted conference tie-ins (i.e. the bowl must take a certain conference’s champion), the picks of the remaining bowls are mainly selection based (i.e. the bowl may pick whichever team it wants). This becomes a problem because it often ends up being a marketing issue for a bowl, and they often end up selecting a bigger name team that had a worse season over a smaller name team who did better.
While there are a lot of problems with the BCS system, there are a few big ones. The first one is that the national championship game is determined by computers and voters, and can often ignore a very good, undefeated team that deserved to have a shot as well. In a playoff system, this team would get their crack at a title too. The second issue is access to the “Big 5” BCS Bowl Games. It is extremely hard for small conference teams who go have great records to gain access to one of these games due to their typically easier schedule in tandem with not getting love from the voters because their name is not extremely recognizable. This problem is also confounded with the fact that, of the teams eligible to go to these big games, the teams with the best seasons do not always go. Often times, a more marketable school is taken over a more worthy school. Let’s look at this year for example. If nothing too crazy happens this week when Michigan does not play, Michigan will be eligible to play in one of these bowls. If eligible, Michigan is nearly a lock to be chosen to play in one. This is not because they are clearly the best team of the bunch, but because their name is so big and their fans travel so well that a Bowl representative would be making a huge financial mistake to not pick Michigan. It all revolves around money, and schools that proved themselves on the field will be left out of the games they should have earned. Two years ago, there were 3 undefeated teams at the end of the season. Two of these were big names, and one was a small conference team, TCU. They had, however, played some big teams over the season and one. However, the BCS did not choose them to go to the championship game despite their spotless record. Overall, there are a lot of huge controversial problems with the system. Most of the public as well as a large portion of sports analysts have called for a playoff system. This way teams would be able to all have their fair, deserved chance at the title. Sports expert in the matter Dan Wetzel even says “The current formula is nothing more than nonsense math and an unsound popular vote that gets polished up by television. Anyone who cares about college football should demand something better. If we can’t get a playoff, can they at least stop insulting our intelligence? Can we at least get some attempt at sanity?”
But what does an issue like this have to do with our political science class? Well, it’s an issue involving inequality and even Dirty Hands. First of all, as explained previously, there is a striking inequality of access to the bigger bowl games. Furthermore, the bowls which live off the marketability of the team they chose and the revenue they can draw so much that the BCS bowl representatives and the bowls have now been caught in scandals involving stolen money and misuse of funds. In the most recent case, Fiesta Bowl (one of the big five) executives were found to have personally used over $33,000 for personal events including a trip to a strip club and a personal birthday party. Those with power over the system which decides how a full season of prestigious college athletics ends are practicing inequality and stealing funds which the system is praised for raising. What is this system good for anyways?
Once again, Dan Wetzel makes his comments on the subject in an article on yahoosports (http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/news?slug=dw-wetzel_football_hostage_illegitimate_bcs_112911 ) “It currently consists of two-thirds human opinion polls that are ripe for political foolishness, full of oft-uneducated voters and subject to groupthink. The other third features an average of six computer formulas, which quantitative analysts have declared mathematically unsound and their own proprietors admit are not as accurate as they could be. Five of the computer formulas are secret, even kept from the BCS, which means no one, absolutely no one, knows if they are accurate or honest. It is a total disaster of a system. No one who cares about the game would ever invent such a thing. Just because ESPN does a fine job dressing it up each week like it’s a legitimate process doesn’t mean it is.”
But what does this postseason collegiate system have to do with political theory? Well, it certainly has ties with many of the ideas we talk about in class. First of all, Rosseau would despise this system. It is a system stacked top to bottom with inequality. Furthermore, as state earlier, there is a large problem of dirty hands. Lastly, a good way of looking at this system is an unfair social contract; a social contract where big names and big teams have the clear advantage. This just doesnt seem appropriate, right?
As it stands, Michigan has a large shot at a BCS Bowl Invitation this weekend. However, do they deserve it? As a Michigan fan, obviously I say yes. As a completely uninvolved party? I would say there are probably more deserving teams being locked out by the system. The only clear choice is a playoff, but money is apparently not there. The BCS is a money system, not a fair system, and when money is being stolen from these bowls, it is a case of dirty hands and there is only one real loser. These losers are the players who go out there and perform all season and then get locked out of big games so that the system can make money.