College football has never accepted Cinderella. You know, the intrepid, incompetent team up against the giants – it’s the living force, in basketball, the lifeblood of the NCAA Tournament.
Whatever you want to call it – traditional, snob, whatever – College football has been a monopolistically controlled community for a century and a half. Only privileges have passwords.
Why, though? This country loves its underdogs. This country to be was once an underdog. It just doesn’t love them as much as it does in college football.
“That’s the $64 million question,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said this week. “Of course, you have to earn that respect. I think it feels like somehow we’re not playing at a particular level. I never bought that.”
It’s his No. 4 Cincinnati will try to overcome what has, so far, been a cement ceiling when it plays in the AAC Championship Match against 21 Houston on Saturday. Defeat the Cougars, and the undefeated Bears have an extremely good chance of making it to the College Rugby Round.
They may not know it, but they will carry on their backs their hopes and dreams about the scores of programs deemed – through sports discrimination or even TV ratings – is not good enough. What was once perception has now become well-designed brands: Power Five and Group of Five. Those labels are mostly media shortcuts, but the definitions are well known to anyone who follows the game.
Power Five are the legacy conferences: ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC. Group Five are leagues with fewer resources: American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt.
“There is a difference in funding,” Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said of Teams of Five. “There is a difference in national coverage. There is a difference in the CFP’s view that football is good and football is not good. I don’t know how to change that.”
That could change this week. Cincinnati’s inclusion would be a window into what an extended playoff would look like. In the 12-team bracket, at least one Group of Five will be guaranteed each year and more seats will be available.
A television consultant once said that ratings would drop with such shows in the four-team arena. That would defeat being sued by the Group of Five over exclusive activities to exclude. That’s how high the barrier is for those who don’t have one.
The history of this struggle has once reached the floor of the United States Senate in hearings on the subject. Turns out even Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is a Cinderella.
“The basic message is, ‘If David wants to take down Goliath, he should do it during basketball season,’” McConnell said. “College football has no place for Cinderella stories. College football has no place for the underdog.”
That was 25 years ago.
The struggle continues to this day. Cincinnati has outlasted the relegation arrows as something less deserving. The same team it played deadlocked in Sugar Bowl, Georgia, is the nation’s only other unbeaten team. How is that for a measuring stick?
The Bearcats beat two Power Five teams on the road in fighting games. One of them has been ranked in the top 10 (Notre Dame Cathedral). Those who think Cincinnati is unworthy are running out of excuses. Coach Luke Fickell doesn’t accept any chance for rat poison to leak into the program.
“We’ve locked everyone in our facility,” he said. “We’re not letting them go home. We’re not letting them out. We’ve closed all internet access. We’ve created our own little bubble here so no one can leave.”
He’s (obviously) joking. But you get points.
In a famous exchange 10 years ago, former WAC commissioner Karl Benson said his teams deserve access because they’ve been “stepped onto the big stage”.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany strongly countered: “The problem is that your big stage takes away the opportunity for my teams to play on the stage they created in 1902.
That was the year the Rose Bowl debuted when Michigan beat Stanford 49-0. Benson’s WAC began in 1962.
Oh, the underdogs were organized in this moment. Boise State with the Statue of Liberty against Oklahoma. TCU with victory at Rose Bowl 2011. But those who haven’t washed will never get a chance play for the national championship in the match or match win or lose. When.
That is about to change if Cincinnati is interested in the business. If so, the thinking of the 13-man group on the College Football Qualifying Selection Committee will almost certainly lead to the placement of the Bearcats in the shortlist.
They will go back decades with the group’s thinking to the contrary. Labels seem to matter.
“If you’re a recognizable, tradition-rich, green-blooded show, you can slide up and recover,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said this week. “Some other schools, when you get to this point, if you slide up, you fall out. Like it or not, that’s what happens with human nature.”
Oklahoma State is one of the teams likely to knock Cincinnati out of the playoffs if Georgia, Michigan and Alabama all make it through, according to CBS Sports bowl expert Jerry Palm. The Cowboys, despite losing, will have three wins against the top 15 teams in the CFP Leaderboard compared to one win by the Bearcats.
The process of applying those “no” labels is gradual. When the Army dominated the game in the 1940s, it was seen as the equivalent of today’s Alabama – a major power.
When BYU won the national championship in 1984, the Power Five and Group of Five labels didn’t exist. BYU is simply one of the great football training schools. It beat Michigan, 6-5 at the time, in that year’s Holiday Bowl. With no other unbeaten team, the Cougars (13-0) were the only option left to claim the national championship.
Such a thing will never happen again for a program that is today considered independent outside of the Power Five.
The game liked it back then. The ratings reflect that. We gather around the TV every Thanksgiving for the likes of Oklahoma-Nebraska and Texas-Texas A&M. Ohio State-Michigan and Alabama-Auburn are the staples. But when the I Division was subdivided in 1978, the move that created second-tier football.
The divisions – both real and perceived – have deepened. Cincinnati is already the highest-ranked Group of Five team of the playoff era. But if you can’t beat Houston, you will almost certainly fall out of the group of 4.
Twelve years later, after the 1984 BYU title when the stakes were bigger and the stakes were higher, the 1996 No 5 Cougars, 13-1 at the time, were dropped from the prestigious Fiesta Bowl. Instead, the rankings took the 20 Texas (8-4) to face the 7 Penn State.
It’s another sign that there’s a line drawn between haves and don’ts. Instead, BYU found a place in the Cotton Bowl. The Cougars beat Kansas State, finished 14-1, and remained fifth in the AP Top 25. In the end, Benson downplayed that and turned it into Senate hearings examining the houses. power broker of the game.
Benson recalls: “BYU was the first team to be shut down. “… I hang around the big boys’ table. I’ve never had the same voting rights as anyone else. Give Mike Aresco credit for rocking the boat and demanding greater access. Yes. I might have gone the other way. I’m a high five in front of the Senate.”
When BCS launched two years later in 1998, the championship game era began. In the 16 years of BCS’s existence, the teams now considered Group of Five have finished among the top five of the AP Top 25 just four times with Utah in 2008 and TCU in 2010. None of them made it. into the top two of the final BCS rankings.
Oh, there were brief bursts of excitement. Boise State may have beaten Oklahoma 15 years ago in the Fiesta Bowl, but that’s BCS Bowl, not a championship game. UCF awarded itself a national title when it was ignored by the system after an undefeated season in 2017.
There’s room for Cinderella in team 68 NCAA Tournament field. Room for errors, if you will. The weaker teams seem to have been more or less eliminated by the Sweet 16. The same could happen in an extended playoff, but that’s not the point. Just shooting seems fair.
In CFP’s seven-year history, only 12 teams have entered the championship. That’s out of a total of 28 points (four points per year). The potential additions of Michigan, Cincinnati and Oklahoma State this season will force the most new blood transfusions from year to year.
While no one calls the Wolverines Cinderella, the Bearcats and Cowboys fall more into that category. The 5th Oklahoma State has twice ranked in the top 5 in the show’s history.
“With college basketball, they play hard,” Gundy said. “The teams that come in are not obvious, when they come into the tournament, they play to see if they go through. The way we set it up with the four-team selection committee, they can’t play to continue. customary.”
Then there will be a calculation coming. In the penultimate CFP Leaderboard, there are 4 top 13 teams from the future Big 12 (4 Cincinnati, 5 Oklahoma State, 9 Baylor, 12 BYU). That’s one less than those in the future SEC (No. 1 Georgia, No. 3 Alabama, No. 8 Miss Ole).
As suggested, a 12-team knockout would automatically award the top six berths to the tournament champions. As mentioned, that will guarantee what the Group of Five looks like in the next few years.
We are close to the discussion of Cinderella that will be strangled if not concluded.
“A basketball coach once said, ‘With a few bodyguards, I could make it to the Finals. But football is a corporation,” recalls Aresco. “When you do [break through], it’s even more remarkable.