Bowling for Chumps

How insiders use the college bowl system to loot American universities

Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist likens it to Major League Baseball allowing the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies to decide who makes the playoffs—and to guarantee themselves the biggest paydays. So he and 21 other economists filed a complaint last spring urging the Justice Department to investigate the BCS for anti-trust violations.

Despite having access to the country's best mathematicians, many argue, the BCS can't even get its computer rankings right. Famed sports statistician Bill James has said they're based on "nonsense math." Hal Stern, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, has even called for a BCS boycott in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports.

Then there are the university presidents. Faced with continuous funding cuts, at some point, they're bound to go looking for new revenue.

Thanks to an alliance of unblushing incompetence and corruption, college football long ago decided to outsource its most valuable asset—its post-season earnings.
Jennifer Silverberg
Thanks to an alliance of unblushing incompetence and corruption, college football long ago decided to outsource its most valuable asset—its post-season earnings.
Bowl Championship Series executive director Bill Hancock says that bowl games reward athletes at the end of the season but recognizes that when the BCS contract expires in 2014, dozens of new proposals will be floating around college football.
Courtesy Bowl Championship Series
Bowl Championship Series executive director Bill Hancock says that bowl games reward athletes at the end of the season but recognizes that when the BCS contract expires in 2014, dozens of new proposals will be floating around college football.

Since March Madness generates more than $600 million a year, schools might belatedly realize that a playoff for football, the more popular sport, is sure to bring a torrent of cash. Fortunately, even those short on courage tend to find it when free money's in sight.

Hancock seems to know the end is near, though he won't say it outright. The BCS contract expires in 2014, and Hancock acknowledges that dozens of new proposals are floating around college football.

History says the insiders will try to change as little as possible. They've offered minor concessions every few years since the dawning of the BCS, just enough to keep attorneys general and nosy congressmen at bay. But the bowls' duplicity is so obvious they can't hold on much longer.

"I want what's best for the students," Hancock says.

If he's being honest with himself, he can't help but push reform. After all, he has to know that at the bottom of this insiders' pyramid are those who can afford it least—the kids paying tuition.

"What's really egregious is they shift that burden to their students," Morgan says.

And that's the unholiest part of it all.

With reporting from Tim Elfrink.

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2 comments
MeanJoeGreen
MeanJoeGreen

I wish this could b emailed 2 all college students & the parents of same who r paying the endlessly upward spiriling tuition costs, including the dreaded "student activity fee" , every quarter / semester they r n school

 

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