(Vizio Fiesta Bowl by Robert J Pfeifer)

Opinion: BCS or NY6, FBS College Football Is A Cartel, “Strength Of Schedule” Literally Means Nothing

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

With the exception of the artificial barriers to entry that have been loosened a bit and a four-team playoff instead of a two-team playoff:

The Bowl Championship Series still exists, it’s just now called “The College Football Playoff” and “New Years Six Bowls.”

The richest and most influential Universities within American College Football’s highest Subdivision use a method called “Strength of Schedule” to limit competition between their “Power 5” conferences and the smaller “Group of Five” conferences.

They do this by controlling the allotment of money paid out from advertisers who contract with bowls and TV Networks to promote their businesses.

They are “a combination of independent enterprises” (the universities, bowls, and TV Networks) that seek “to limit competition and fix” payouts given from advertisers to TV networks then to Bowls and conferences (groups of schools) and then to schools.

The definition of a cartel from Merriam-Webster is “a combination of independent commercial or industrial enterprises designed to limit competition or fix prices.”

Major College Football Universities are businesses, and their football programs are money-making machines.

“Group of Five” schools have little to no say in any of FBS College Football’s payout process while still competing in the same market as the “Power 5” schools for the same pieces of pie.

These “smaller schools” can play as many “Power 5” schools as possible out of conference but because “Strength of Schedules” are ranked, “Group of Five” teams scheduling “Power 5” Schools won’t do anything to the perception that they “don’t play anybody.”

They can all hypothetically play up to four “Power 5” teams a year, but it won’t matter as that number cannot compete with the eight, nine or 10 “Power 5” games each “Power 5” team has on their schedule each year. Whatever number any random “strength of schedule” formula spits out will always be lower for the “Group of Five” schools when compared to the “Power 5” schools because “Power 5” conferences limit the competition by simply existing. “Group of Five” schools cannot play “Power 5” schedules.

It is impossible.

“Group of Five” schools can play every last one of their Out Of Conference games against “Power 5” schools but their “Strength of Schedule” rank will always be capped below the ranks of the “Power 5” schools who have no real economic incentive to play them.

It may be that the “Power 5” Schools are scared to play the “Group of Five” for fear of looking bad when they inevitably lose on occasion, (and they lose all the time), and it may be that they have no financial incentive to play these schools who don’t generate as much revenue as them. Regardless, the “Power 5” conferences are, intentionally or not, designed to limit competition between themselves and the “Group of Five” schools and fix FBS College Football’s revenue stream from advertisers in their favor.

Don’t believe me?

Here’s a list of “Group of Five”/”Non-BCS” schools who did everything within their control, went undefeated against every team that gave them an opportunity for a game, and were not afforded an opportunity to compete for a “BCS Bowl” payout, let alone an opportunity to compete for their subdivision’s championship.

1998/1999-#10 Tulane (11-0)
1999/2000-#12 Marshall (12-0)
2004/2005-#9 Boise State (11-0)
2008/2009-#9 Boise State (12-0)

This list leaves out several schools and iterations of their football teams who went undefeated in the BCS/CFP era who, while they were given an opportunity to play in a BCS/NY6 Bowl after doing everything that was requested of them that they could control, were not afforded an opportunity to compete for a championship or receive the same Bowl payout that schools from the conferences of power received for simply existing and being the last team standing.

It also leaves out top-10 “Group of Five”/”Non-BCS” schools and iterations of their football teams who, while they didn’t go undefeated were left out in the cold during the ten-team BCS/NY6 Bowl selection process in favor of lower-ranked teams, not because they were inferior to teams that were selected in place of them, but due to a technicality of not winning their conference.

2010/2011-#10 Boise State (11-1)
2011/2012-#7 Boise State (11-1)

Here’s a list of schools that were ranked lower than each of the aforementioned schools in each respective year and received and invitation to a BCS Bowl and that BCS Bowl’s payout.

1998/1999-#15 Syracuse (FedEx Orange Bowl)
1999/2000-#22 Stanford (Rose Bowl Game presented by AT&T)
2004/2005-#13 Michigan (Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi), #21 Pittsburg (Tostitos Fiesta Bowl)
2008/2009-#19 Virginia Tech (FedEx Orange Bowl), #12 Cincinnati (FedEx Orange Bowl), #10 Ohio State (Tostitos Fiesta Bowl)
2010/2011-#13 Virginia Tech (Discover Orange Bowl), Unranked UConn (Tostitos Fiesta Bowl)
2011/2012-#10 Wisconsin (Rose Bowl Game), #11 Virginia Tech (Allstate Sugar Bowl), #13 Michigan (Allstate Sugar Bowl), #15 Clemson (Discover Orange Bowl), #23 West Virginia (Discover Orange Bowl)

Now you might say: “So what? Those schools played harder schedules, so they deserved to go to the Big Money Bowl before Tulane, Marshall and Boise State do.” There is a problem with this logic, however. The polls/standings already factor “Strength of Schedule” into the rankings that they spit out and produce different iterations each week. To say that a #10 ranked team from a conference of influence “deserves” to go to a Big Money Bowl over a #9 ranked team from one of the “other” conferences compounds the significance of “Strength of Schedule.”

“Strength of Schedule” was already factored into the rankings and the rankings determined that the school form the “other” conference should be ranked higher whether it was a computer formula or a poll of coaches or writers.

Now you might say: “So what? The BCS is dead and we have the College Football Playoff now.” This is true, however the BCS Standings and Selection process has only been replaced by the CFP Selection Committee that serves the exact same function.

Now you might say: “So what? If “Group of Five” schools take care of their business their highest ranked champion gets an automatic berth into a “New Years Six” Bowl. This is true, however the only thing that has changed is that the threshold that a “Group of Five” (Non-BCS) school needs to pass in the rankings has simply been removed and *one* (just one) of them will receive an invitation to a big money bowl and access to it’s big money payout, regardless of how many “Group of Five” teams have outstanding, conference-championship seasons.

One other thing has also happened to limit the controversy of undefeated “Group of Five” teams:

“Power 5” schools are scheduling “Group of Five” schools more and more frequently in the regular season to limit the number of undefeated “Group of Five” schools, and “Group of Five” conferences have now instituted Conference Championship Games that unintentionally limit the number of undefeated teams from “Group of Five” conferences.

If the two best teams from a conference have to play an extra game the odds of a team from that conference going undefeated plummet. There can only be five undefeated “Group of Five” teams at most, the more games they have to play against one another, the less likely it is that one of them goes undefeated.

The College Football Playoff and New Years Six Bowls are exactly the same as the Bowl Championship Series only the artificial barriers to entry have been loosened a bit.

Demand what you all want.

Demand a true access to the FBS revenue.

Demand a true playoff.


About Robert J Pfeifer

Robert was born in Boise and raised in Meridian, Idaho. He spent his whole life in the Treasure Valley before moving away to Moscow for college. He owns his own website where he covers recruiting and writes other in-depth articles about Boise State. He also helps with the Idaho Statesman's High School Football coverage.

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