It’s impossible to feel sorry for those charged with finding a way to construct a viable playoff to determine a true champion in college football. But understand this…if they tell you they’re doing it for the benefit of the kids, they’re lying!
Columbus – Some powerful men in expensive suits have gathered in a high-priced resort hotel this week. Their mission is to strategize the best way to protect the integrity of college football and safeguard the purity of the student-athlete.
Translation: determine how to best bloat their own bottom line while continuing to exclude the players on whose backs the entire corrupt system is built.
It is increasingly more difficult to maintain my long-held stance against paying the guys in uniform who create the show that gives these stuffed shirts and self-important gas-bags a commodity to market.
At a time when rejoicing should greet the establishment of a better way to crown a true college football national champion – and there couldn’t be a worse way than the system we’ve suffered with since 1998 – the triumph over what will result mostly feels hollow.
Everybody who’s involved in the effort to introduce a modest four-team playoff for the national championship has an agenda to protect and a cause to advance. The only commonality is that each individual participating has their divergent self-interest that trumps their commitment to the greater good.
The bowl reps want to continue their practice of guaranteed profits for themselves and their respective cities via forced tourism. A key cog in this scheme is sticking participating schools for full-price tickets for everyone from the participating players and coaches to the bands that provide free halftime entertainment.
Such was the case last year at the BCS title game in New Orleans, where the schools paid $350 per-seat for the two “comps” given each player from Alabama and LSU. Likewise, the Sugar required each team to be in town for a full week, allowing local hotels to charge premium rates, some of which was probably kicked back to the guys running the entire operation from Sugar Bowl headquarters.
It was no different at any other BCS game last year, but it might be going forward, because the athletic directors and conference commissioners are fed up with that set-up.
They, instead, want the money they’re forced to pay for tickets and overpriced hotels to burnish their own bottom line. That seems fair on the surface, but when asked to make their own compromise for the collective, their resolve weakens.
Big Ten boss Jim Delany tried strong-arming a plan to have national semifinals played on the campus of participating teams. The objective, of course, was to make such games more win-able for his league members, who have shown no propensity for beating Southern teams in the South.
Had Delany’s plan gone through, we’d be treated to the delicious possibility of 40,000 visiting fans trying to find hotel rooms in Iowa City in late-December. That presumes they would even bother to find Iowa City at that time of year.
When that wouldn’t fly, Delany and his Pacific 12 counterpart, Larry Scott, puffed out their chests and threatened to participate only if their teams get to play in the Rose Bowl every year.
Good luck figuring out how a four-team playoff will work with two neutral-site semifinals and a third semifinal played every year in Pasadena.
I’m not sure how that would shake out, but I am sure it would wind up feathering the nests of Delany’s and Scott’s special interests.
Southeastern Conference king-maker Michael Slive isn’t blameless, either, because he wants no part of a new world order in which only conference champions are invited to the party. Alabama, of course, would have been left at home without a dance card last season, when it won the BCS title to give the SEC six in a row.
It’s impossible to feel sorry for anybody involved in the entire sordid process, including the ESPN, ABC, Fox and other network money men who preside over a show the Worldwide Leader last year took off free TV and slapped on cable.
The only thing that’s certain is when they tell you it’s all about the kids, they’re lying.
It is, first, foremost and forever, about the cash, and who can grab most of it.
Bruce Hooley is a former sports editor of the Troy Daily News and co-author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: the Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story. Bruce hosts The Hooligans from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on ESPN850 WKNR in Cleveland. Email firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz