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The BCS and Marx

December 10, 2010

Fall Semester is winding down, and the vaunted College Football Bowl Championship Series approaches. Around, on, or before January 1st, college football’s greatest teams will make their way to end-of-season Bowl games. The BCS is currently college football’s methodology to determine the ranking and Bowl destination of the best teams in the nation and who will later battle for the National Championship. The USA Today Coaches Poll, Harris Interactive College Football Poll, and a mean of six computer rankings comprise this system of selecting college football’s elite. These polls are composed of panelists from conferences and independent institutions and head coaches who evaluate and rank the skill of teams. Though these polls seem like a democratic solution, there has been much controversy over the direction, transparency, and impartiality of the BCS selection system.

In 2010, the BCS has come over intense scrutiny by critics claiming that the system is designed to give advantage to larger, more visible athletic conferences than it does with smaller, mid-major conferences with lesser renowned institutions. In the past, the BCS has denied Boise State, Hawaii, Tulane, Marshall, Utah, and other mid-major schools a trip to the National Championship despite their undefeated records. This has been attributed to their conference’s supposed poor caliber and poor perception among the elite panelists who contribute to the BCS ranking. Moreover, people do not want to watch BCS giants trounce mid-major schools. Thus, the BCS is better off pairing popular and bigger teams as this generates TV ratings and Network profit.

Though college football seems like a trivial matter, this dispute has been brought before Congress. Rep. Joe Barton of Texas called the BCS system, “communism” demanding that National Championship contenders be decided through a playoff system, in which teams would have to play similarly ranked teams. Barton’s resolution is not dependent on the perceptions of football analysts and coaches, but rather on the merit of winning alone. Collectively, Barton’s comments touch upon the Marxist Theory of Communism.

Karl Marx believes in the class struggle of the working class proletariat and the ruling class bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie has

“no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest.”

This class will exploit the proletariat to maintain the current hegemony of production forces and capitalism. Marx writes

“the essential condition for the existence and rule of the bourgeoisie class is the accumulation of wealth in private hands, the formation and increase of capital.”

This relates to the BCS as many panelists support bigger athletic conferences and teams. There are more “Big Conference” panelists and coaches in the BCS than “Mid-Major” ones. So, it is no surprise that the people who run the BCS will vote to maintain the system that favors their own Big Schools rather than voting for competing conferences that could take away the TV contracts and publicity that come with better Bowl games. The bourgeoisie here is the “Big Conference” lobby, wishing to perpetuate mediocrity for competing “Mid-Major” teams, while bolstering its own capital and fame.

So what is the solution? According to Marx, the Mid-Major Conferences should apply social pressure via unions and violent demonstrations to overthrow the Big Conference lobby and its consequent capitalism. But for now, the Mid-Major teams are still the exploited proletariat.

  1. chrisolah permalink
    December 10, 2010 9:31 PM

    I agree with the comparison between the “big” conferences and the “small” conference being somewhat in line with Marx’ prediction, but the the comparison between communism and the BCS is ludicrous. Communism now seems to be used a shock word to scare are insult a person or organization. We all know the modern definition is not the true definition of the word.

  2. jwalsky24 permalink
    December 10, 2010 9:57 PM

    I think the BCS problem highlights a theme that recurs every day in society: people on bottom (Boise State) want what the people on top have (automatic BCS qualification) but the people on top, besides feeling bad, have no real incentive to change because they are benefitting from inequality. Personally, I think this type of separation in everyday life is unavoidable, but it really frustrated Marx, and his vision of communism is a reflection of that. When it comes to the BCS, a very public entity, I think public pressure will eventually force equality upon college football, because whenever oppression is widely recognized, the process for solving it is almost always expedited.

  3. Tony Zhang permalink
    December 10, 2010 10:15 PM

    Communism is a economics related theory. I don’t think a comparison between the communism and the BCS is viable. However, the reason why the BCS never gets any respect isn’t because they are oppressed like the Proleteriat. Rather, they just don’t play any great teams. For example, compare Alabama’s schedule to Boise State’s. Alabama had to play great teams like LSU, Auburn, South Carolina etc. That is why they get more respect in the BCS rankings. I can see what you are saying in terms of always being on the bottom and never being able to rise to the top. But Marx’s theory applies only to human society.

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