Darren Evans looked at the Discover Orange Bowl scoreboard for the last time with his head held high. Stanford 42, Virginia Tech 12. He smiled. At first sight many would wince at the lopsided result. Not Evans, he knew that Virginia Tech was America’s underdog team; their journey to a BCS game was the real victory.
For the pure college football fan, the joy seen on Evan’s face as he walked off the field is the true nature of football. The NFL, with its cold playoff system, shuns the spirit of the game by limiting its playoff, the ultimate spotlight, to the most talented teams. The BCS, by contrast, shares its moments of glory with those that want it most, regardless of talent.
Collegiate sports is an amateur game, a contest where the contest itself takes precedent over the result. The Bowl Championship Series fosters this environment and preserves the very best of college football: the scholarly athlete, tradition, and equality.
Critics of the BCS are quick to ignore the importance of academics. They advocate installing a prolonged playoff system that would take collegiate athletes out of important family studies courses. Such selfishness puts the interest of the leisurely spectator above the interests the student athlete.
Practices, travel, and games already place an unfair burden on football players; a playoff system will only increase the stress on these young minds. Student athletes are deprived of the lecture hall experience, the comradery felt while writing down lecture sides alongside 400 fellow students. Instead, football players are forced to spend time with private tutors who can offer only private, focused study.
The American work force is booming with opportunities for C-average sociology, and ethnic studies students. If our young athletes have any hope of securing entry level sales jobs they will need to spend more time competing in the classroom and less time competing on the gridiron.
College football is a unique and special sport that carries deep traditions and rivalries. If we must encourage student athletes to sacrifice time in the classroom, we should at the very least preserve for them the enjoyment of upholding the legacy of those who have played before.
For nearly a decade, the BCS system has held college football stagnant to foster a steady environment where young athletes can appreciate the history and traditions of the game they have been blessed to play.
One needs only to look to the Papa Johns.com Bowl, a game steeped in lore, to appreciate the atmosphere or tradition a bowl system creates. Thanks to the BCS system, players can look back over the rich five year history of this infamous game and learn of the greats who played before them.
Who can forget the legendary match up between Cincinnati and Southern Mississippi in 2007 – two juggernauts leaving all their efforts on the field. Or the unforgettable war between a 7-5 Rutgers team and a 6-6 North Carolina State Wolfpack. Darren Evans remembers.
Evans can also tell you the history of the Orange Bowl. While Virginia Tech has lost in front of a national audience three of its four trips to the BCS game, all Hokie players hold an appreciation for what they are playing for: pride, tradition, respect, and while not a national championship trophy, a trophy nonetheless.
College football was never intended to be a professional game. It was never intended to generate overwhelming profits; if it were, an underwhelming ACC, the conference that includes Virginia Tech, would have been cast out.
Rather than throw the baby out with the bath water, the powers that be have wisely preserved a system that, while flawed, provides all teams that work hard with a shot at glory. They rightly embrace the notion that twenty trophies are better than one. After all, these are not grown men. They still have another 18 years on their parents health insurance plans.
As long as the BCS system stays in place, college football will continue to be a unique sport that focuses on making greatness better by sharing it with all teams. Virginia Tech may not have been playing for a championship but neither was Stanford. Both were equal in the eyes of the BCS and that makes all the difference.