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COVID-19 Freak Season Exposing Ugly Underbelly Of College Football

Ross Everett
by in NCAAF on
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every sport and league in the world.
  • US college football is being exposed for duplicity, hypocrisy and greed.
  • Thankfully, many within the sport are calling them on their misdeeds.

Back in the paleolithic era, before the Supreme Court invalidated PASPA and extended some measure of sports betting freedom to the people of the United States the NCAA would cloak themselves in a mantle of ‘integrity’ whenever they found it beneficial. Anytime that the concept of legal sports betting was as much as mentioned the NCAA would moan about how it would ‘destroy the integrity of the game’. For a long time, jock sniffing politicians would lap up the pabulum while college sports players, coaches and programs would play along with the charade.

The NCAA still tries to be a thorn in the side of Americans’ freedom to wager post PASPA. Most recently, they were trying to suggest that in-play wagering was some type of ‘threat to the integrity of the game’. The difference now is that no one is buying their scam anymore. The COVID-19 pandemic is laying bare the realities of college sports and in the process disempowering the traditional ‘gatekeepers’–the NCAA, the conferences, the College Football Playoff, bowl committees, etc. One of the most dramatic threats to this sleazy cabal involves yet another trip before the Supreme Court–this time, a decision against the NCAA could pave the way for athletes to get a cut of the billions they generate for everyone else.

For the time being, however, college football soldiers on trying to perpetrate the same old scam using terms like ‘integrity’ and ‘student-athletes’ to justify why they’re playing football in the middle of a pandemic. The most recent example of college football’s duplicity is the money driven decision by the Big Ten to put Ohio State in the conference championship game, contravening their own COVID-19 guidelines in the process. Unfortunately, the College Football Playoff selection committee is playing along by ranking Ohio State #3 despite having only played five games. As with the Big Ten, it’s probably the right decision financially but this time not everyone is drinking the proverbial Kool-Aide.

To wit–American Athletic Conference commissioner Michael Aresco dropped a scathing critique on the College Football Playoffs in which he questioned the integrity of the organization and compared them unfavorably to the much maligned BCS. Suggesting that the CFP selection committee needed to do some “soul searching” as they are “undermining its credibility with rankings that defy logic and common sense and fairness” his tirade is classic:

“I never thought I’d say it, but if this continues, bring back the BCS and the computers because it would be a fairer system than what I’m seeing now. This is the seventh year [of the CFP], and it does appear the deck is stacked against us and against other [Group of 5 teams].”

Cincinnati is 8-0 but they haven’t played since November 21 due to COVID-19 related cancellations. Somehow they’ve managed to drop two spots in the last two rankings released by the CFP. They’re now #9 behind three teams with two losses each. Aresco called out the CFP for penalizing the Bearcats for being idle while playing along with the Big Ten’s favoritism toward Ohio State even riffing on George Orwell in the process:

“[The Bearcats] have only missed two games. They played eight, and Ohio State has played five. [The Buckeyes] missed three of their eight, and it’s been essentially a glorified exhibition season and not against strong competition, and they don’t drop. I guess I could channel George Orwell [in] ‘Animal Farm’ — ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

He also pointed out the head scratching move to elevate Iowa State up to #6 based on wins over a couple of marginal opponents–Texas and West Virginia:

“Texas, which has a great brand and name, but if they weren’t Texas, would they be in the Top 25?. They have three losses and almost had a fourth against Texas Tech but not for an onside kick. That’s considered a win that vaults a two-loss team over an undefeated Cincinnati team, which by any measure of the eye test is an elite team with NFL players all over the place. … They played a sort of depleted West Virginia team at home, and that’s another win that supposedly vaults a team over.”

He also pointed out that #5 Texas A&M–another ‘marquee brand’–got ripped by Alabama earlier this season giving up 544 yards and 52 points. Aresco posed a question about their perceived ‘superiority’ to Cincinnati:

“You have to look at the eye test. The eye test has been used over the years by the committee, but they refuse to use it with a team like Cincinnati. This is a really elite team. … You’ve got some teams that have played Alabama and given up 50 points. Give an elite defense like Cincinnati a shot at them. See what they can do. I don’t know what would happen.”

Iowa athletics director Gary Barta who moonlights as the chairman of the CFP selection committee tried to defend the favoritism with this nonsensical, rambling bit of gibberish that basically said a) ‘we don’t pay attention to Cincinnati’ and b) ‘playing fewer games is a feature not a bug for Ohio State’:

“Well, compared to their résumés, those teams ahead of them have had a chance to play more — when Cincinnati came out and our committee had its first evaluations, we had information to put them where we put them. We haven’t had a chance to see them play since Nov. 21. Other teams around them have been playing and have been adding to their résumé.”

“The decision of the committee was that those two teams, Florida and Georgia, were still better than Cincinnati, and you started off by one of the factors, so I didn’t start with it, but they haven’t — they don’t have a win against a Top 25 team, and that factored into it.”

Aresco isn’t optimistic that the CFP’s ‘soul searching’ will lead to an equitable assessment of highly ranked teams:

“If it continues to be the way it is, then you really don’t have a path. It looked like, at one point, Cincinnati might have had a path. We’re not satisfied anymore with just playing on New Year’s Day when we have teams this good.”

In other news, Virginia Tech ended the longest active bowl streak in the nation–27 years–by ‘opting out’ of a bowl bid in 2020. They’re one of five ACC teams that have thrown in the towel. Obviously, they couched this in terms of ‘sacrifice’ and ‘an abundance of caution’:

“Our players have decided not to play [in a bowl] and I’m going to support them 100%,. I think they’ve sacrificed enough.” 

Meanwhile, bowl after bowl continues to cancel for the year. It looks like no one is really interested in the lower tier bowls when the revenue to scratch out big checks isn’t there due to the lack of fans in attendance.

At this point, no one believes that bigtime college sports is about anything other than money. It’s time for the legacy college sport power brokers to come clean and give up their no longer effective scam.

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