According to recent reports, some folks have begun to think that there ought to be a playoff bracket in college football for the so-called “Group of 5” schools. In case you don’t know who the Group of 5 schools are, they are the schools that make up the 5 Division 1-A conferences that play – for the most part – minor league college football. Here are the Group of 5 conferences in alphabetical order:
- American Athletic Conference
- Conference USA
- Mid-American Conference (The MAC)
- Mountain West Conference
- Sun Belt Conference.
And probably because it is ever so proper to be “inclusive” in one’s thinking these days, the idea of this minor-league college football playoff would also be open to independent teams which this year would include:
- Brigham Young
This is such a bad idea; let me count the ways. First, outside the highly provincial micropolises of the schools in these conferences, let me break some news to these folks here:
- There is a huge wave of indifference regarding just about everything involving football in each and every one of conferences.
- Every once in a while, a school such as Boise St. or W. Michigan (this year) captures enough non-local interest such that people wonder if those guys at that one school in that year year might actually be able to play with the “big boys”. Often, that lone school from those 5 conferences can do that – – but no one else in those conferences can. These conferences are where “Homecoming Game Opponents” are found…
That first reason that this is a bad idea leads directly to the second reason this is a bad idea. If no one really cares and there is only one team in that Group of 5 every once in a while that can “play with the big boys”, then no one will pay attention to a tournament. Oh, there will be faux attention paid just so the schools at the “kiddies’ table” get enough of the faux attention to stay at the kiddies’ table and be happy that they are there. This playoff idea is like planting the seeds of an environment wherein the Group of 5 teams become a permanent underclass in the football hierarchy but they cannot complain because they have their tournament to focus attention on themselves.
Division 1-AA has a tournament. Other than times when a player like Randy Moss comes from that tournament or when Carson Wentz becomes the overall #2 pick in the NFL Draft, does the Division 1-AA tournament create any goosebumps for anyone outside the school communities of the teams involved? I’ll pose the same question about the Division II and the Division III national playoffs:
If you are reading this rant here, you must have some basic level of interest in sports and so you are the perfect audience to respond to this question, “Do you care even a little bit who wins or who is “snubbed” by not being invited to the Division II and/or the Division III football tournament brackets?”
Some say that this tournament idea can bring money to the Group of 5 schools that will give them the chance to “graduate” and compete with the “big boys”. That is nonsense. The amount of money that the CFP brings into the conferences involved in the top tier of Division 1-A football will dwarf the pittances that the Group of 5 tournament might draw in one’s wildest imagination. Second, this will soon become the “Miss Congeniality” Prize for the smaller programs and will almost immediately take any and all of them out of consideration for participation in one of the bigger New Year’s Day Bowl Games – where there is real money involved. I am confident that if I were to say awake for 72 consecutive hours I could come up with a worse idea for the Group of 5 teams. I am not about to do that; I am, however, going to say that they better not get what they seem to be wishing for.
About 35 years ago, I was the President of the PTA for my sons’ elementary school. Yes, I did that for an entire year and did not commit sufficient mayhem or physical violence that I was arrested and/or charged with some sort of violation of the law. One of the debates ongoing at that time in our county was the extent to which classes in the school system should be offered in various languages. Foreign languages were never my favorite courses in school and I am only proficient in two languages:
- English – and –
As my year-in-the-box progressed, there was a suggestion by a group of parents that the school system offer algebra taught in their culturally native language. That is where I got off the train. I asked for – and was granted – a time slot where I could address the school board and whatever other local politicians may have been in attendance at this open meeting. Here is a paraphrase of what I told the school board that evening:
I hope you realize what you might actually be doing if you were to consider the idea of teaching algebra to high school students in something other than English. What you would be doing is to lay the foundation for those students to become a permanent underclass in the US. Like it or not, the fact of the matter is that the language of the generic economy and society here in Virginia – and in almost all of the US – is English. Being bilingual – or even multi-lingual – is an asset for students, but they also have to know English to succeed – or to have an equal shot at success. You can teach them lots of courses in lots of languages, but if you try to pretend that mathematics is something they can only learn in their “culturally native language” you are consigning these students to second-class citizenship.
[Aside: The Chair of the School Board happened a black woman. She reacted to my closing statement.] If I were an evil person and my intention was to consign a subset of the population to the status of “permanent underclass”, the first thing I would do would be to give them as poor an education as I could and to fill their time in school with things that will not be useful to them in the economy and the society that they will have to try to succeed in. For a while, this country did that with slaves in the South until most of us figured out that was not the way to go. If you pay more attention to feelings than you do to reality and your responsibilities as overseers of education, you will start down that path again. Don’t do it.
Change the issue from teaching algebra in something other than English to high school students in the US to the idea of a minor-league football playoff and the outcome is similar. If the Group of 5 wants to be sure they are never taken seriously and have a permanent seat at the kiddies’ table of college football, then this idea for their playoff is a great way to head on down that road. No one is going to travel a thousand miles to see that championship game in person and precious few are going to tune on TV. Imagine the burning interest in the game leading up to that championship contest. This is an idea whose time has not yet come and is not going to come…
Finally, here is a comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News regarding one of already existing minor bowl games that would compete with a “Group of 5 Tournament” for attention:
“The Foster Farms Bowl was sparsely attended. Utah doesn’t really move the meter in Northern California, while Indiana doesn’t even move the meter in Indiana.
“Hint to bowl officials: Next year, please offer free Foster Farms chicken nuggets to every fan in attendance. Proposed slogan: ‘Come for the nuggets, stay for the football.’”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………