Gridiron Economics: Does College Football Resemble the Economy?

Steve Chapman of Reason Magazine waxes analytical about a perceived decline of college football, claiming its lack of defense (poor product) and gluttony of bowl games (celebration of mediocrity) has a distinct resemblance to current economic woes. His final conclusion is noteworthy as he surmises, "As the folks at Lehman Brothers and Citigroup can attest, unbridled excess can be a recipe for regret." Also, he references Purdue’s Joe Tiller in the full story, which will be fun for some of you:

Barack Obama has weighed in against the existing Bowl Championship Series as a way of determining the national title among college football’s top-tier teams. What he has failed to address are two far more grievous afflictions plaguing the game: a gross surplus of scoring and a mortifying multiplicity of bowls.

In the golden days, the game consisted of a lot of blocking and a lot of tackling. Teams marched laboriously down the field, if they moved at all. Occasionally they scored. More often they didn’t.

In those days, defense was not a dirty word. In the 1969 "game of the century" between No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Arkansas, both unbeaten, the Longhorns prevailed by 15-14, which was considered perfectly normal. In 1966, when No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State battled to a 10-10 tie, the stands were not littered afterward with the corpses of fans who died of boredom…

Our forebears would have recognized this impersonation of football as a symptom of moral decline, reflecting an unwillingness to accept deprivation and a demand for instant and frequent gratification. The same phenomenon accounts for the mad proliferation of postseason bowl games.

This year, 34 of these will be played (more than double the number in 1980), creating the biggest glut this side of the housing sector. They include the EagleBank in Washington, D.C., the R+L Carriers New Orleans, the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia and the Gaylord Hotels Music City.

Think of it: Half a century hence, an elderly man will dandle his grandson on his knee and regale him with stirring tales of the 2008 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

Ouch. Some interesting points though, although I tend to favor the higher scoring version of the game.

Moreover, since I’m an IU grad, I’d sort of tuned out on college football pretty early this year in order to focus on basketball (oooooh riiiiiight — thanks Kelvin).

Ball State, Obama and Football

Some family, friends and co-workers are getting sick of hearing me talk about it. Instead (or in addition to), I’ll write about it, try to come up with a way to justify it being in this space and move on — for the time being.

It is Ball State University football, the magical 11-0 season (entering Tuesday night’s regular season finale at home against Western Michigan) and where its bowl destination might be. OK, I know it’s not the Golden Domers back in their glory days, the IU hoops (see back in glory days reference, although I believe they will return to prominence in a few years under Tom Crean) or Purdue’s Rube Goldberg contest dynasty, but give us Cardinal fans a break.

Even if the Cardinals go 13-0 (a conference championship game in Detroit awaits if, and only if, a Tuesday win is recorded), the BSU faithful are looking at a return to Detroit the day after Christmas (bowl games are supposed to be a reward, aren’t they), Toronto (nothing against the Canadians, but I’m not anticipating sunny weather up north on the third day of 2009) or Mobile (better, but no New Orleans, Phoenix or south Florida).

Ball State won’t be going to one of the grander destinations because that appears reserved for Utah or Boise State, which also fall in the non-Big Boy category of college football and its allotment of "only one of you gets to come to our season-ending party."

What’s the solution? Don’t know. What’s next? Hope for three more wins, 14-0, more publicity for the university and increased alumni donations (now there’s a business angle).

Or how about this justification: president-elect Barack Obama stirred the pot the night before the election by championing a college football playoff and repeating the wish in his recent "60 Minutes" interview. If the future world leader can take time to examine the college football postseason structure, why can’t I?

Go Cardinals!