On college ills, vote with remote

The Baltimore Sun

You actually have a choice, you know. You can gripe and whine about the unfairness of the Bowl Championship Series and the stupidity of the entire college football bowl system - again. But you don't have to do it while glued to your television.

The powers that be in the sport and at the networks don't provide the bowls and the BCS games as a public service, after all. They wouldn't be on the air, getting contracts extended and increased (half a billion dollars for four years from ESPN starting in 2010) if people weren't so addicted.

So stop complaining and start clicking.

Boycott it, all of it. Or, if that word is too extreme-sounding, just don't watch.

College football has been asking for it for a long time. This is your chance to give it to them, right in the wallets. Start this weekend. Don't just talk about how Texas got robbed of a Big 12 title-game berth or how the Atlantic Coast Conference championship rewards mediocrity and shoves the Boise States and Utahs to the kiddie table. Turn it all off and leave it off.

The decision-makers in all of this understand money and little else. Speak to them in their language. They've tuned out everything else. Otherwise, why would things be the way they are today?

And "things" means much more than just the postseason mess. The entire sport, at its highest levels, has so many ills for which it has to answer, no one has time to address more than the most blatant.

But if the BCS and the bowl system - 34 of them this season! - aren't good enough reasons to turn your collective backs on the sport this holiday season, then try these:

* Those conference championship games. Just a straight cash grab. The idea for this spawned an even more evil concept ...

* * Super-conferences. Like the ACC, for instance. Karma already has caught up to it, though. Nice title game there.

* Games all week long. The student-athletes who must be protected from the academic ravages of a playoff system play in games every night but Monday.

* Arms races. Ballooning coaching salaries, stadium and facilities expansions to keep pace with Rival State U., in the face of rising tuition and deep budget cuts everywhere else on campus.

* Graduation rates. They stink. And where they don't, the good grades and clean programs give coaches zero job security if they don't win.

* Out-of-control fans. Not just blitzed students anymore, as the couple in heat in the bathroom stall at a recent Big Ten game proved. Then there are the fans who hack player Facebook profiles, bombard cell-phone voice mails, slap every rumor imaginable onto Web sites and endlessly invent new ways to harass and invade privacy.

* Coach hiring. Aryan prison gangs are more welcoming to people of color than are the major-college coaching ranks. (We pause here for the obligatory and condescending "I don't care if the coach is purple, as long as he can win" replies.)

Not that college football is that much worse than other big-time sports - well, actually, yeah, it is. It gets away with at least as much as the NFL, which gets away with virtually everything. And the NFL isn't centered on the world of higher learning.

Yet we let ourselves get caught up in the pageantry and emotion, as well as the simple enjoyment of the competition, and swallow what we're fed, even if we dislike the aftertaste, even when we complain.

But now, post-election, the theme of change is in the air. Do your part - change the channel.

Listen to David Steele on Fridays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

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