College sports contain little parity as far as championships
As an avid supporter of Major League Baseball, I get extremely tired of hearing how only a few teams have a chance of winning the World Series as compared to other sports.
That argument has been debunked when it comes to comparisons against other professional sports like the NFL, NBA and NHL. But, now, it’s time to take that argument one step further and enter the — dare I say — hallowed world of college athletics.
While I enjoy college athletics, especially bowl season in football and March Madness in basketball, the argument that only a handful of teams have a chance at winning titles is one that certainly applies here. After all, name the last time a BYU-type program has won the national championship in college football (BYU, in fact, in 1984).
Even the NCAA Basketball Tournament, which makes such a big deal about having a Cinderella team each March, has only produced what I would consider one team that truly fit that description. In 1985, Villanova head coach Rollie Massimino led his Wildcats to a 66-64 upset title win over then seemingly invincible Georgetown in the finals. While you can make the argument that Kansas in 1988, UCLA in 1995 and Arizona in 1997 qualify, let’s remember that Kansas had Danny Manning, UCLA the O’Bannon brothers and Arizona the likes of Mike Bibby and Jason Terry.
Consider that North Carolina has won two of the last five national titles and Florida won two in a row in 2006 and 2007. Since 2000, the winners have been Michigan State (2000), Duke (2001), Maryland (2002), Syracuse (2003), UConn (2004), North Carolina (2005 and 2009), Florida (2006 and 2007) and Kansas (2008). These aren’t exactly college basketball’s Sisters of the Poor. Only once in recent memory has a true Cinderella squad — George Mason University in 2006 — advanced as far as the Final Four.
Parity is even worse when it comes to college football. Champions since 2000 have included such powerhouse programs as the University of Miami, Ohio State, LSU (twice), Florida (twice), Alabama and Southern Cal — not exactly Cinderella types. The chances of a Boise State, TCU or South Carolina winning a title or Clemson winning a second title, with the way in which the current system is set up, has diminished greatly through the years.
As is the case with basketball, college football has its teams that earn BCS bowl berths each year. Examples in recent years include Utah in the Fiesta Bowl and Sugar Bowl, Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl on two different occasions, Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl and Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.
But, just like its basketball brethren, those teams don’t stand a chance of winning a national championship because they don’t have the money of its bigger brethren (sounds familiar doesn’t it?). While there is parity in that teams like Utah can beat Alabama, as they did in the 2009 Sugar Bowl, and Boise State can beat Oklahoma, as they did in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, those games had no impact on the national championship picture.
Rules changes, such as limiting Division I schools to 85 scholarships in order to keep the bigger schools from hoarding talent, have attempted to level the playing field. However, the truth is that the super talented are, in most cases, going to play for a national power in order to receive television exposure, compete for a national championship and improve their chances of being a high NFL or NBA draft pick.
While the Florida Marlins, the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have hoisted World Championship trophies in recent years, college football and basketball have seen only its powerhouse schools display championship hardware. That’s why, despite its enormous popularity in television ratings and recruiting news, college football and basketball remains the true examples of the rich getting richer.