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Casualties of College Sports...errr, I mean Big Business

No, it's actually far beyond the time to stop pretending college athletics aren't big business. In fact it's long overdue. In this crazy mixed up world of conference realignment that has been steered by television networks, United States Senators, and the OPEC like cartel known as the BCS, it has become more than evident that the mission of furthering education is on the bottom of most agendas. As usual, the people caught up in the wash are those who care the most.

College football has been the primary revenue producer for the athletic departments of public institutions for a long time now. In 1984 the major college football programs decided they were sick and tired of the NCAA controlling the amount of money they could make from television revenues, and they decided to do something about it. In the landmark decision NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the NCAA’s power over football contracts with television as, "an illegal restraint of trade that harmed colleges and viewers." The NCAA essentially lost all control over college football money and how it was distributed.

Up until that point the revenue generated from college football had been distributed throughout the NCAA member institutions. So basically if you were a small school like Marshall, and you played football, you got a piece of the same pie that was being baked by big schools like Texas, USC, Notre Dame, Alabama, ect. If you look at where we are now, that battle between the bigger schools, who don't want to share their pie, and the smaller schools is still going on.

The creation of the BCS was nothing more than the big schools creating another financial wall between themselves and the rest of the college football land scape. The television revenues were growing exponentially every year, and the biggest producers of that revenue once again figured out a way to keep most of it for themselves. Need an example of how the BCS agenda works? When their two "at large" bids went to Boise State and TCU in 2009, the BCS didn't pit these Davids against Goliaths. They made them play each other. Why? Because God forbid not one but two schools, and their perspective conferences from BCS leagues, should lose their shares in the same year. That wasn't a chance they were willing to take.

In this day and age, college athletics has far less to do with competition, and promoting a sound mind in a sound body, than they do with making money. I defy anyone in a position of power, in any athletic department, to make that case and keep a straight face. When United States senators are jumping into the fray, you know that dollars are the focus. If you want answers to why anything happens in this country, all you need to do is follow the paper trail; it will inevitably lead you to the motivating factors. It will enevitably lead you to someone who wants more, or isn't willing to take less.

The facade of the "student athlete" is all but gone with yesterday's announcement that schools will be allowed to give two thousand extra dollars to those who are on scholarship. What better way to increase the gap between the "haves and the have-nots" than to allow schools to pay their players? Will a school like East Carolina, Southern Mississippi, or Tulsa be able to afford to pay their athletes when they regularly lose money on trips to bowl games? No, and the gap between those who can and those who cannot will only get larger. The size of the pie has changed over the years; but, so has the way it's divided, and it's not in the favor of those who could most use that money to increase their ability to compete on the national level.

One of the primary reasons the NFL is immensely popular because a team like Detroit can go 0-16 one year, and in relatively short order become one of the better teams in the league, because of the draft and revenue sharing. The NFL works hard to keep all their fans tuned in by giving them hope that they too can one day see their team reach the top of the mountain. There is no such parody in the BCS, and that's the way the bigger schools want it. Apparently, that's the way it's going to stay unless there is some sort of outside government intervention; but, from what we've seen this week politicians are content to usher along the status-quo. As long as their states aren't left out they really could care less.

As long as the NCAA continues to make their cool Billion/ year off of the basketball tournament they could also care less what goes on in football. What's more, even if they did care they're powerless to do anything about it. The National Championship will continue to be determined by computers, and it will continue to smell like money and shame. Bowl CEOs will continue to rake in six figure salaries and operate under a tax free status, even though it's become painfully obvious that the people pulling the strings are operating anything but non-profit organizations.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany recently admitted before congress that a playoff would produce four times as much money annually as the current BSC system, yet he still opposed the conversion to a "plus one" model. He also managed to convince John Marinatto and Dan Bebee, the current/ former commissioners of the Big East and Big12, to go along with his opposition to such a system when the SEC and the ACC were in favor of it. Why? Because he couldn't guarantee that the Big10 would win a football playoff; but, by keeping the status-quo in place, he could assure that the future of college football would boil down to a battle for TV markets. It was a shrewd move by Delany who recognized that with 26% of the nations population within the Big10 footprint, his league would continue to thrive.

The byproduct of that Darwinian future was that only the strong would survive, that the weaker leagues would feed on one another to make themselves stronger; and, that's where we are. We sit at a crossroads where teams like Louisville who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars, to make themselves as competitive as they possibly can be with state of the art facilities, can be relegated to second tier status with the stroke of a pen. A program like Louisville who fought their way out of Conference USA to make themselves competitive, in spite of having the deck stacked against them, can be cast aside to once again find themselves in a league that may not have a seat at the BCS table when those contracts are renegotiated.

Sadly, all that remains for the fans of schools like Louisville, who have proven they are good enough to compete with the big boys in football and win national Championships in other sports, is to wait for this whole nonsensical game of musical chairs to crank up again. When that will be is anyone's guess; but, it appears that for now the music has stopped. Unfortunately, most of all for the fans, when that happens someone has to be left standing in awe of how they didn't find a seat.

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