Second Thought: Wednesday, November 19, 2003
The Purple and the Green

It isnít whether you win or lose, itís how they pay on the game.


Let me start out by saying I am no big supporter of college football. You can keep all that pageantry and the marching bands, perky anorexic cheerleaders, players who score 800 on the SAT, and the Neanderthal Southern Dummy coaches in their sweatsuits. The only thing I know about college football is that the schools that cheat the best usually win, except for Baylor University, which seems to be able to cheat its way only to the level of mediocrity.

And Iím certainly no big fan of Texas Christian Universityís Horned Frogs. I donít bleed purple and never have quite figured out how to do that gang sign thing with my fingers. In my pantheon of sports-watching, TCU football probably doesnít even crack the top ten. No offense to the local amphibian auxiliaries, but the thought of TCU playing East Carolina doesnít get my ballpark weenie vibrating all that much.

Despite such disclaimers, I must say that I am on the TCU bandwagon this year. Iím rooting for the Frogs only because the little school down on University Drive has a chance to poke a hole in the corrupt system of college football. Unlike other college sports, college football stacks the deck against teams like TCU. And it is all about the money.

College football decides its champion through a highly rigged system called the Bowl Championship Series. These four bowl games provide about $115 million in payouts to the eight teams invited to play. The champions of six major conferences ó ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac Ten, and the SEC ó are guaranteed spots. Two at-large teams, generally the best of the second-place finishers in those mega-conferences, get the other two spots. The Bowl Championship Series setup pretty much insures that the tv millions stay with the big boys. With the six major conferences guaranteed places at the trough, all their member schools share in the feed. Little schools like TCU, no matter how good they are, usually get shut out. Baylor, for example, by being a Big 12 member, will share some of the money if the University of Texas or Oklahoma University plays in one of the big bowl games.

Itís a system designed to make sure the big college football programs get rich and stay rich. In most seasons, teams like TCU, a member of Conference-USA, can only hope for playing in a crappy bowl game like the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, with its relatively piddling payout of $1.5 million ó which TCU has to share with its conference members.

But this year is different. The only chance a little school like TCU has to crash the BCS party is to run the table and hope the complex BCS ranking system moves them into the top six, where the BCS is forced by its rules to grant a major bowl bid. TCU has done just that, so if they win the rest of their games and get invited, they will be taking $10 million to $14 million out of the big schoolsí pockets.

That works out to a loss of about $250,000 for each of the teams in the six big conferences, money they are used to getting. A quarter million can do a lot of things for a college football program. It can buy SUVs for players, term papers so those players can pass their courses, phantom jobs for recruits, and maybe a big check for a star high school playerís parents.

The Bowl Championship series is unfair at its core, and TCU has a chance to bust things up a bit and bring this controversy out in the open. In college basketball, every conference is invited to the national championship tournament, and every conference shares in the money. More importantly, the issue as to who is the best in the land is settled on the court. Maybe, just maybe, with the Horned Frogs getting into a jackpot game, the lords of college football will decide the best way to go is to have an actual playoff system, with the champion determined on the gridiron.

So hats off to the Frogs. They play about the easiest schedule in the country, but they have beaten everyone lined up against them. If they get into a BCS bowl game, they will more than likely get killed. But that will matter little. Because the real winners in college football are not the ones with the most points on the scoreboard; theyíre the ones who take home the biggest checks. And TCU has a chance to yank more than $10 million out of the grasps of the big state schools.

Some like to claim that college football is the All-American sport ó virtuous young men fighting for the glory of olí State U. I beg to differ. The All-American sport is getting back at people who have cheated you through the years. Thatís why Iím rooting for TCU. Thatís something we can all get behind.

Dan McGraw is a local author and freelance journalist.

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