I’ll be watching ABC’s telecast of the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day with my father and my son, three generations of Duck fans renewing a tradition that began when we all flocked to Pasadena in 1995 for the University of Oregon’s last appearance in the “Granddaddy of Them All.”
We’re looking forward to kicking Ohio State’s butt, although the Christmas Day disappearance of my lucky Duck football on the rocks of Pebble Beach has me a tad apprehensive.
I’m counting on Oregon’s high-powered offense to overcome that setback, but there’s one other problem with what would otherwise be a perfect college football afternoon. That’s the fact that TV networks and the universities themselves have colluded to cheat both the Ducks and the Buckeyes — and a dozen other good teams around the country — out of the chance to play for a national championship.
Unlike every other college and pro sport, unlike every other level of college football, there is no true championship for the big schools in college football. Sure, ABC will tell you the game between Texas and Alabama on Jan. 7 is for all the marbles.
It isn’t. Instead, it’s the product of a nightmarish concoction of political polls and computer rankings designed to create a pretend championship game.
Why would the networks and colleges devise the monstrosity known as the Bowl Championship Series instead of holding a 16-team playoff tournament to crown a true champion? After all, such a tournament would capture the sporting nation’s attention like no other event and generate more revenue than the current set-up. So it can’t be about the dollars, right?
Wrong. Even though college football playoffs would bring in more total revenue, a tournament would spread it around rather than keeping it all in the hands of the current recipients — big universities and the organizers of the current bowl games (including TV networks). And they’re not willing to part with any of their guaranteed payoffs for the sake of the sport and the fans.
Even worse, some university presidents engage in the blatant hypocrisy of claiming additional end-of-season games might be academically detrimental to their student-athletes. Those extra games aren’t a problem for the small colleges that play in tournaments and produce actual champions, but hey, the big guys striving for a future in pro football have gotta study for that English test.
Sheer greed denies us a true champion in arguably America’s greatest sport, Division I college football.
This will not prevent the Wiens boys from rooting wildly for the Ducks come Friday in one of the biggest of the money-grubbing bowl games. Across the country, fans will loyally support teams that are being denied a well-deserved chance to play for a championship.
My advice to them is to make the best of a bad situation. If their team wins its bowl game, they should claim the national title for themselves. Print up some T-shirts. Stamp the word “champion” on beer mugs. Throw a parade on campus.
When it comes to big-time college football, no claim will be more legitimate.