Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's turn next to college football, where there's a big game tonight. The undefeated Boise State Broncos take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. The contest gets commentator Frank Deford thinking of a promising team that we are unlikely to see in big ballgames.

FRANK DEFORD: Most football fans want the so-called Bowl Championship Series detonated, because by employing only polls and computers to determine its title game opponents, an awful lot of fun is denied us. Hey, we want something like March Madness to determine a genuine national football champion.

Besides, it's so unfair. After all, the NCAA sponsors scores of true national championships. Why in Division I football alone should the NCAA be hijacked by six conferences and Notre Dame, which run the BCS in a way that virtually assures that no other college could ever qualify for its title game?

But apart from the fact that the BCS robs us of our constitutional right to amusement, it also flies in the face of a fine old American tradition, wherein nouveau American colleges have used athletic visibility to hoist themselves up.

The classic in this category is Notre Dame itself, which was an unknown little Catholic school in the hinterlands until football gave it a name and the wherewithal to eventually become an outstanding academic institution.

This century's Notre Dame in the upward mobility line is Boise State. It's the American dream, college category: make it in football, improve educationally. Sure enough, as Boise wins games, its student applications increase and improve. Boise didn't even open its doors till 1932, and then only as a church junior college. Even now, as Boise has become a national football mainstay, most experts still don't even know how to pronounce its name. It's not Boy-zee, but Boy-see. And no matter how well the Broncos play, they're discriminated against by the BCS grandees.

Last year, Boise finished undefeated and ranked ninth in the country, but three BCS teams ranked lower, made the big bowls and the big money - money, by the way, that can be used for academics, as well as athletics.

Boise is undefeated this season, too, but even if it wins all its games again, it'll surely be denied the chance that the BCS teams reserve for themselves. What will sink the Broncos is their schedule. Because Boise isn't in one of the six conferences that control the BCS, it can't play many teams that are in the BCS. And that, in a vicious-circle sort of way, penalizes it.

How about inserting another factor into the computer? In 2006, when Boise played in one of the secondary BCS games, it beat Oklahoma. Now get this: The Oklahoma head coach's salary was greater than the entire Boise football budget. So let's add economic efficiency to the BCS mix: the Boise bang-for-the-buck factor.

Or, of course, even better, the NCAA could take back football and give everybody a fair chance to win.

INSKEEP: Commentator Frank Deford takes his fair chance each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford