An open letter to the NCAA football establishment

Dear NCAA football establishment:

For the first 28 years of my life, I didn’t care much for college football. There was the occasional big game that lived up to its hype, but week-in/week-out, there were just too many 70-3 drubbings, missed 25-yard FG attempts, games with only 3 passing plays by both teams combined, and 6’7″ 300-lbs D-I five-star recruits beating the crap out of 5’7″ 160-lbs D-III walk-ons. Too many other things to do on Saturdays to waste on your “competition”.

Things changed in 2002, when Jeff Tedford rolled into town and resurrected my alma mater’s program. As I watched Cal’s return to relevance, I slowly began to care about games other than Cal’s — big bowl games, mostly, but now even major rivalry games will entice me to tune in. You’ve sufficiently hooked me…I now care enough to get pissed about some things. Allow me to address two of them here.

It’s that time of year in college football. The BCS system pisses off everyone except for you guys and the two schools that make the title game. There have been plenty of arguments made for a playoff system, yet you turn a deaf ear. Maybe one more plea will tip the scales. Instead of focusing on the blatantly logical reason for having a playoff system (i.e., an undisputed champion determined in the same manner that every other significant athletic championship on earth is) — which clearly has not worked in swaying you so far — let me shoot down all the arguments against employing a playoff system.

  • A playoff will diminish the significance of the regular season: Yes, it will to a certain extent, because a single regular season game would no longer necessarily eliminate a school from a title run. However, I see no reason why it would diminish the importance, pageantry, and rabidness of rivalry games; even now, rivals with no chance of getting to the title game still kill each other in these games. Furthermore, why would a playoff system encourage teams to mail it in during the regular season any more than the current bowl/BCS system does? Resting starters? Regular season records would definitely matter for playoff seedings, so there would still be incentive to win every game.
  • Worthy teams would still be left out: Would you rather have an undefeated #3 team complaining or 2-loss #9 team complaining? Don’t use the “nothing’s perfect” argument to perpetuate an inferior solution when a better solution is readily available.
  • Too many games, which impacts academics: Please, if you cared that much about academics, you wouldn’t allow players to take the lame courses they do (if they even attend classes and do the coursework). I’m sure you can accommodate a 15-game season (12 regular season games, 3 playoff games max for a field of 8 teams) without the players getting too antsy about insufficient study hall time.
  • Bowl games are awesome: Yes, they can be, especially for the lower-end teams who just want to make a little scratch and put a nice cap on a solid season. So keep ’em. You can have bowl games in parallel with a playoff system, just like you have the NIT in parallel with the Tourney. Oh, and by the way, UConn vs. Oklahoma in this season’s Fiesta Bowl is decidedly not awesome.
  • Money: Finally, the real reason you cling so tightly to the current system. Too many people from top-to-bottom (except the folks in my next issue) are making too much money under the current system for you to risk a change. Here’s a tip: there are hundreds of Wall Street PhDs who can squeeze a billion dollars out of fixed-income retirees through some co-leveraged debt swap halfback option scheme. Trust me, they can figure out a way for a playoff system to make even more money than your precious BCS system does.

The issue of paying your athletes has been around forever. I’m sure you’ve done your best to keep the lid on this one (while keeping the money to yourselves), but you really jumped the shark in the recent Cam/Cecil Newton flap. Cam didn’t know what his dad was doing? Do you really think we’re that stupid? Many of us actually went to the fine institutions you represent — and we didn’t take the easy classes, either. You’ve pushed the limits of hypocrisy; end the charade and just pay them cash money already. They work hard and generate obscene profits for you. Let ’em feed directly from the trough a little. As with the previous topic, I’ll tackle the arguments against directly paying your athletes.

  • Destroys the purity of amateur athletics: That died when you started selling tickets to games, created booster clubs, and emblazoned your uniforms with Nike logos (among other things). The definition of “amateur” has been worn so thin with all the revenue and fringe benefits that the only thread left is not directly paying them. We all see through it. They already get everything for free (including ringers to take their exams for them). What’s a little beak-wetting going to change, other than eliminating your sanctimony?
  • They already “get paid”: As I mentioned above, star players already get everything for free. But since these student athletes continue to be directly compensated under the table, getting everything for free is clearly not enough to secure their commitment. The free market calls for them to get paid…let the markets work, already! Even regular students with full academic scholarships can get additional stipends.
  • Pandora’s box: What kind of rathole will paying student athletes lead us down? Let’s see, what kind of rathole has self-righteousness, selective blindness, and arbitrarily enforced rules led us down? It can’t get much worse than it already is, can it? The worst thing is that you replace the recruiting funnelers with real agents. Sure, some kids/families will be fleeced, but at least they’re making some real money.
  • Money: Again, the real reason rears its head. You don’t want to share your money with the young men who do the field work to generate it. The solution is simple, though: the pie will easily grow. When major program backers can legitimately pour more money into recruiting top talent, they’ll happily jump at the chance to fund a better team. Money for players without diminishing your cut.

Think about it. And in the mean time, can you funnel a few blue chip QB prospects our way? Tedford’s lost his touch in that department and could use some help.

Thank you for your consideration and Go Bears!

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