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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

WorldCom.

Tyco.

Enron.

Division I-A college football.

You might have thought my first question would be, "Which of these does not belong?" Unfortunately, they all fit together just fine - as some of the biggest frauds in American history.

That's right. College football is a scam.

Think about it. How many other sports leagues get away with what we let college football do to us?

Schedules are uneven, television coverage can dictate rankings, and in the end, we don't always end up with a true champion.

Any other sports league that tried to pull this off would be laughed right out of existence, but for some reason we allow college football to push us around.

For entertainment purposes (after all, that's what sports are supposed to be), we want to see competitive games and storied programs clashing in out-of-conference matchups.

But what motivation do schools have to schedule tough non-conference opponents?

With the exception of UF last year and a few other cases, all it takes is one loss to effectively eliminate a team from national title contention.

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Tennessee and California played last Saturday and gave fans an exciting shootout to watch. Many applauded the Volunteers for scheduling the Golden Bears, but what do they have to show for it?

After their 45-31 loss, the Vols' hopes of a national championship - no matter how small they were - are already gone.

On Saturday, top-10 foes Virginia Tech and LSU will clash, and one of the title hopefuls will see their season virtually ended.

No. 5 Michigan lost to Appalachian State, knocking the Wolverines out of the top-25 and ending their chance to win it all.

Not that Michigan deserves that chance after losing to a Division 1-AA team - they should be banned from singing "The Victors" for a few years - but is it really fair that one bad game can ruin a season?

Imagine if the NFL played by these rules. After Week 1, half of the league would already be out of the hunt for a championship. Tonight's game between playoff favorites Indianapolis and New Orleans would literally be do or die.

In baseball, the Boston Red Sox would be done after dropping a series to the bottom-dwelling Texas Rangers in April.

The concept is ridiculous, and by the end of the year, we aren't even rewarded with an undisputed champion.

Just like any scam, it's all driven by the almighty dollar. Too many TV networks, corporate sponsors, and BCS proponents don't want to risk losing the fat profits they reap from the current format.

For example, in Arizona alone, last year's Insight Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, BCS Championship and Fiesta Bowl National Band Championship had a combined economic impact of nearly ,402 million.

Some argue that college football is a year-long playoff. That would almost make sense if there weren't such large discrepancies between the schedules of different teams.

No. 3 West Virginia faces a soft Big East schedule while hosting non-conference titans such as Marshall and East Carolina. Meanwhile, No. 2 LSU must navigate through the Southeastern Conference unscathed, top the Hokies this weekend and prevail over another conference foe in the SEC Championship. Please, remind me how this is fair.

Another argument against change is that a playoff isn't possible because the athletes will miss too much school. If Division I-AA can manage a 16-team playoff with eight conference champs and eight at-larges, why can't Division I-A?

Has the smaller division figured out a magical formula to fit in 11 regular season games and a playoff without ruining its players' educations? I doubt it. It just isn't as driven by money.

The NCAA recently renamed the two divisions, with I-A becoming the Football Bowl Subdivision and I-AA now the Football Championship Subdivision. The names alone make it pretty clear which system is better for determining a winner. As far as I'm concerned, they should be named "wrong" and "right."

With such an obviously skewed system, why has college football been able to exist in this way for so long?

The only answer I can think of is because of the pageantry.

College sports have the advantage of alumni as well as unusual traditions. The fight songs, stadiums, chants, mascots and other distractions have us hooked, and it's hard to find anything awry on a Saturday filled with exciting games.

That's the beauty of a good scam. It always looks good until it falls apart.

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