I know, I know, another BCS post on the blog. But one reason why the issue is so popular is because 1) it’s relevant today, and 2) the system is so wrong everybody has their own theories regarding how to fix it.
The BCS is broken. For those who don’t know, the BCS is a combination of human polls and computer algorithms which, in lieu of a full-fledged playoff, are meant to determine the 2 best NCAA football teams and have them play one game to determine a champion. The system is broken. It fails yearly. The human polls are simply a popularity contest, and the computer algorithms are top secret so that nobody knows what they empirically calculate. No, that’s not a joke. And yet, the system is still in place.
Many in the mainstream media are against the BCS, but the system lives on due to the corrupt, money hungry people who run the system and the “bowls” that the teams play in following the regular season. A playoff would ruin the traditional “bowl” system, they say. It would also provide the nation with an unquestioned champion of Division 1 College Football.
Now, where does Thoreau come into this? In an article from the Idaho Statesman, Brian Murphy describes a perfectly plausible and clever way to destroy the BCS: stop participating. (http://www.idahostatesman.com/2011/12/01/1899883/media-coaches-stay-out-of-bcs.html) He implores reporters and college coaches, who comprise the constituencies of the two major college football human polls (and a large portion of the BCS system) to stop voting in the polls and stay of out the system. “Among the other benefits, it’ll restore your sanity,” he scribes.
This is exactly how Thoreau would approach this flawed system. The BCS, as written in another blog post, excludes some schools completely from playing in its lucrative bowl games. These schools thus lose millions and millions in revenue all because of a system that plays favorites and is unfair. If Thoreau were alive (and a college football fan), he would implore those who enable the system, such as media members and college coaches, to abstain. In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau scribes: “All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable”
In this case, the BCS executives compose the “government.” Without a doubt, they are running a “tyranny” over college football, as because of their system, there is no true way to determine a champion. Murphy, doing his best modern day Thoreau impression, is urging the writers and coaches to “revolt” in order to overthrow the money-grubbing BCS head honchos.
Just as Thoreau’s civic republicanism is evident in his work, Murphy is urging those who participate in the BCS to band together for their collective rights and interests. As Thoreau writes, “Oh for a man who is a man, and, as my neighbor says, has a bone in his back which you cannot pass your hand through!” It is now up to those who enable the hypocrisy that is the BCS to somehow get “a bone in their back” that we, the American public (and University students especially), “cannot pass our hand through.”