James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The State and the BCS

The State is lot like the Bowl Championship Series. College football tries to crown a national champion without a playoff. The more "fair" the BCS has tried to make its system, the worse it becomes, so much so that the situation up through the 1980's, pre-BCS, was superior to what we have now. This past year, if there were no BCS,several teams would have entered New Years Day with at least an outside chance of winning the championship, instead of just two. That means several games would have been worth watching, instead of one.

And going to a full playoff system raises other problems of sentiment and tradition. Often in the past, great, decisive, memorable games were played during the regular season. With a play-off, such #1 v. #2, or #3 v. #5 games would be far less meaningful, since even the loser will probably make the play-offs. The idea that every game is a play-off would be diminished, and college football will lose a lot of its soul.

The problem, if it is a "problem," began at the very beginning; there never was a play-off, just as there wasn't extensive television covereage and licit gambling (and the thus "big money"), and most colleges were more interested in local rivalries and conference championships than in a mythical "national" championship. Bowl games were little more than rewards for great seasons.

To impose a play-off would be to try to establish a new "tradition" by getting rid of a host of old traditions. But the BCS in many ways is doing this already; if we can't go back to pre-BCS days, then it seems that we might as well have a play-off.

The State, like the BCS, tends to make things worse. The more it seeks to "reform," and the more it tries to improve its performance by spending more money, the worse the results. It tries new things and adopts new philosophies, just as college football keeps adding bowl games and changes game dynamics with overtime rules. And the results are never fair, beneficial, or otherwise satsifactory.

There is one big difference, of course. The BCS is run somewhat according to market principles. It seeks to serve the interests of its member institutions while serving the public; indeed, it would not have been created if there wasn't a clamor for #1 and #2 to meet on the field. The State, however, is not run in a way accountable to the public at all, unless casting a ballot every couple of years implies that there is real choice on the ballot, or that one's vote implies support for one candidate, rather than a vote against the other. At least the BCS acts in desparation to keep itself afloat by tweaking its system on public demand. Poll results are not the same, as opionion polls do not translate into profits. You know what the public wants not by what they say or how they vote, but where their dollars go.

But the State and the BCS are similar in one respect: there is no good or ideal way to set up a college football playoff, and there is no good or ideal way for the State to work better on behalf of the "public good." We are better off without the BCS, and we are better off without the State.

Thus, I would hope that the major univerisities, with or without the NCAA, comes up with a better system for college football, and kill the BCS. And with the State, the solution is not to reform, spend, or privatize to make it more efficient or "better," it is to devolve, cut, and abolish.

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