As The World Turns: Lunch Time Politics Volume II

October 6, 2011
by Justin

I never had the cool lunches in elementary school. My Dad always made sure I was properly fed, but he never saw any intelligence in getting me Lunchables. He worked almost seven days a week, so the dream of a weekly drop off of a Happy Meal that one of my friends got, was not in my cards. College Football has become a classic example of the haves and have-nots. This game that we all learned as early as the ABCs, taught us to envy those who possessed the exclusive, and to look down upon those who were without. The same politics that ran everything from elementary to high school are quite prevalent on the college gridiron. What’s ironic about this, is that the people running these playgrounds are senior citizens.

The PAC 12, Big 10 and the SEC all sit at the popular table. You remember that table; it was the ultimate location. At the head of the table sits Alabama and LSU; the rest file in according to popularity and tradition. Texas A&M is the new kid that made it off of potential. Most of the programs were grandfathered into elite status, solely because of their championship legacy. USC and Ohio State are prime examples of the legacy illusion. They are the bad boys who thrive in conflict, yet never lose allegiance from their prominent association. Their parents are the hot-shot coaches. Joe Paterno is the Dad that everyone knows and loves, from the students to the faculty. Lane Kiffin is the cool dad with the fast car; he eventually gets exposed for the moron he truly is, but from the outside looking in, he’s every kid’s ideal father figure/coach (excuse me, I’m a bitter Raiders fan).

The Big 12 is the table ran by the kid who fell from grace. It was once popular, but has become more folklore than fact. How embarrassed were the powers that be, when they found Texas and Oklahoma flirting with the popular crowd? The Big 12 already made concessions for their two main moneymakers by letting them keep the lion share of their television revenue. That feeling of betrayal rings true on the Big East. Syracuse and Pitt, both charter members of the Big East, traded the snow of the Northeast for away games in Florida. It reminds me of the kid who successfully bartered a pickle for a snack pack. One thing everyone knows is that lunchtime law prohibits such a trade.

Speaking of traders the ACC is the ultimate Benedict Arnold. In my cafeteria equation, they are the too cool for school kids. Florida State and Miami sit at the head of this table simply because the conference has little to no football tradition outside of their confines. They are the sellouts of this lunchroom simply because they are more concerned with increased revenue, by any means necessary (Syracuse, Pitt). They have an automatic bid nevertheless, so the ACC is open to schools like Texas and Oklahoma to add national prowess and depth.

The BCS is the teacher who has lunch duty. Everyone complains about that teacher being too overzealous, and showing favoritism to the popular kids. The BCS is all about keeping the underdog down. The rich get richer in this cafeteria and the BCS has no issue with cashing in. Like a principal, when the NCAA comes into the picture everyone falls in line.

The NCAA (the Principal) has one motive; keep the bad boys in detention (or in College Football’s case, Bowl probation) and keep the popular, over achievers happy. There is always one kid who shows up and rises to prominence like Boise State, but bucking the system is as rare as an uncooked t-bone. The principal knows the system is flawed and will eventually have to let everyone taste the benefits of popularity a la basketball’s March Madness.

The fans are the school board; they learn everything second hand and have little influence on the day-to-day operations. These are the people who support the whole business and who trust their kids (or in this case their school and their sport) to the teachers and the principal. We are the people that complain about the biased curriculum created by the teachers aka the BCS. We gripe about the system that rewards appearance rather than substance. Notre Dame is a prime example of the system’s flaws; unlimited TV exposure and a guaranteed Bowl game pass, based on consistent revenue. We blame the BCS, but the blood is on the NCAA’s hands.

The reality of life, is that one day the tables turn. The cool kids end up working for the nerds and the nerds become popular. The NCAA is different. When conference realignment smacks the popular kids in the face, the mega-conference structure licks their wounds. Hopefully, this system grows up and moves into a playoff. Until then, we as fans are stuck in the sixth grade waiting for graduation.


Yorick Hempstead is an ex-college athlete who is a sports blogger for He is always talking sports on twitter @HempsteadHuddle.


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