Bird courses, Boise State, and the BCS

Behind the Bench/Sports by

We all know them. Some of us might even be them. Those people who brag about the kind of GPA that you could only dream of. These aren’t necessarily the best and the brightest, but they’re the people who have found perfectly legitimate ways to use the system to their advantage. Maybe they’ve padded their semesters with easy courses, or chosen an easier school to boost their average.

Let me introduce you to the Boise State Broncos. The rest of the college football establishment looks down on Boise State. “Who have they played?” is the common refrain. To be fair, the boys from Idaho don’t host the Alamabas and Ohio States of the nation on their blue turf. But this isn’t because they don’t want to play them, but because the bigger schools won’t accept games against low profile opponents. As it stands, Boise State is stuck in the Western Athletic Conference and has to play a schedule against teams like San Jose State and Louisiana Tech,  hardly examples of football greatness. Just like our friends with the easy courses and the easy schools, Boise does very well, going 56-2 since the 2006 season. You would expect the Broncos to have a couple of national championships in their pocket by now. But they don’t, because of the Bowl Championship Series, which is run by the wealthiest athletic conferences and backed by the big television networks. Even going undefeated can’t get the poor Broncos a chance at playing for a national championship. The voters and the computers that make the rankings belittle Boise’s strength of schedule in the same way some of us might look down on those friends of ours with inflated GPAs. “Surely if she (insert: went to McGill/was a physics student/didn’t take Intro to Japanese Animation) she would not have received such astronomical grades,” we say. Admittedly, if Boise State played in the prestigious Southeastern Conference they would not be able to amass such an incredible record, but this is irrelevant because the system is flawed.

I’m not here to say that we should all take easy classes and switch to easy schools. Rather I’m arguing that the attitude of looking down on people who do so is wrong, just like the way the BCS establishment looks down on the Boise State Broncos is wrong.

There is a solution: to get into most grad schools there are standardized tests and they are open to whoever wants to take them, regardless of grades. They present an opportunity to judge the people in harder programs alongside students in easier ones. It’s like playing a game on a neutral field: we get a good indication of who the better team is.

Grad schools have this solution, college football does not. The college football equivalent of a standardized test would be a playoff system in which each conference champion and a couple of wild cards get to face off with a chance to reach the title game. The Broncos would line up against the feared Crimson Tide, the Miami (FL) Hurricanes could lock horns with the Miami (OH) Red Hawks. The small schools would likely lose, and the best team would likely win the championship. Boise State probably isn’t the best team in the land, but what if they are? They deserve a chance to prove it.

Some of us think of the friends with high GPAs and plenty of spare time as cheating the system. Boise State, though, is in their situation by force, not by choice.  They are being cheated by the system itself. Justice does not exist in college football.

I take hard courses at the hardest school in this country. But I don’t deserve anything more than anyone else because of that fact. Judge me on my personal merit. Judge the Broncos on their merit as a team, not by who they compete against. If I had a BCS ballot, I definitely know who’d be sitting at number one.