College football as American as baseball and apple pie. Very few things are more a part of the American tapestry than college football and – probably more than any other sport – it has skillfully manipulated its version of retro-ness in the modern sports landscape. But more and more, its version of retro became nothing more than antiquated malarkey. Its message was, “We are retro. We aren’t changing. Look to us, America, when you want that old feeling back.”
But, low and behold, we are on now on the precipice of a college football playoff system. For a stubbornly retro outfit like college football – one that stuck to its highly lucrative, but competitively flawed, Bowl system like mules – this is radical. This is like looking up one day and that one weirdo friend that’s never had a Facebook or Twitter account or an iPod or smart-phone is sending tweets from his iPhone, linking to leaks of Rick Ross’ new “Self Made Vol. 2” mixtape.
But, let’s be clear: even though college football has taken a huge step toward modernity from a competition standpoint, it’s concerning how much it still lags in antiquated sludge on social issues. College football and its leaders’ version of retro has ended up manifesting itself in a climate of non-diversity and a backwards outlook on sports’ greatest current hypocrisy of not paying its “student-athletes” that generate billions of dollars.
Take diversity. Every year, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, headed by Dr. Richard Lapchick, releases report cards for all the major sports. Check this excerpt from the FBS report: ““The fact is that 90.8 percent of our presidents are white, 88.3 percent of our athletics directors are white and 100 percent of our conference commissioners are white. In those positions, 81.7, 95.8 and 100 percent, respectively, are men. Overall, whites hold 333 (91.2 percent) of the 365 campus leadership positions reported in this study. Even though there was progress toward diversity, we can hardly say we are close to looking like America when it comes to who is leading college sport.”
There were, however, an all-time high 19 coaches of color that started the 2011 season. But, Lapchick still had this to say: “In spite of the record number of head coaches of color, college sports is still far behind professional sports regarding equal opportunities for the top jobs. While the percentages are slightly better in some categories, the general picture is still one of white men running college sport.”
That’s only the good ol’ days for the good ol’ boys. Otherwise, it’s known as the Ice Age.
And then there’s the issue of pay-for-play.
When it comes time for folks to dismiss college players' (and their proponents) cries for equity in the billion dollar business of college sports -- especially football and basketball -- opponentsof the issue tell the players to shut up and enjoy their free ride. But, in fact, the players’ “free rides” aren’t even full rides, with studies showing that athletic scholarships typically fall thousands of dollars short of the full cost of attendance, at many schools.
Fed up, the students-athletes – not nearly all of them, but a critical mass – signed a petition that read, “"We the undersigned student-athletes are hereby calling on the NCAA and college presidents to use a portion of the $775 million in new TV revenues to increase graduation rates, decrease NCAA violations, and provide basic protections."
Take note, though: the players weren’t asking for six-figure salaries, just “basic protections.” That would be real progress. Meanwhile, though, the FBS is doing the #BirdmanHandRub getting ready to count its new playoff stacks. That’s not retro – that’s retrograde.