BCS isn’t just messing up football

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

My ears perked up while listening to Utah women’s basketball coach Elaine Elliott on the radio following a Utah win over South Dakota State last week.

In the interview, she used the phrase, “because of the BCS bias.”

She said that the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State don’t get the recognition they deserve because of it.

The BCS bias?

You’re still talking about women’s hoops, right?

She was.

I cringed.

The BCS is infiltrating places in society where it doesn’t belong. I don’t mean the BCS system itself. I mean that the caste-system mentality it inspires has seeped into areas of college athletics it was never intended to be.

NCAA football — the most lucrative college sport — was inflicted by the BCS system first as a means of keeping the money in the hands of already-rich programs. The BCS was intended to be a means of determining a fair national champion in football and deciding which elite football teams were worthy of the big-money bowls. Now, non-revenue earning sports also feel the sting of being on the outside looking in.

It has become common to describe schools as “BCS” and “mid-major” even when college football, and its postseason bowl system, is not the topic.

Because of this, women’s basketball programs and other non-pigskin sports have begun to see themselves in black and white. They’re either “BCS” or “non-BCS” — and both are loaded identities.

When teams consider themselves “non-BCS,” they imply that they struggle with an underlying stigma.

BCS no longer stands for Bowl Championship Series. It stands for Big-time College Sports. If you’re a so-called non-BCS, “mid-major” school, you’re simply not a major institution no matter what successes you’ve had in other sports. Football is king.

That’s not to say that biases against women’s basketball teams outside the BCS umbrella didn’t already exist when the BCS was instituted in 1998. They did. Without terminology to classify the haves and have-nots, the discrepancy seemed much smaller.

Everyone knew in 1998 that the ACC was a stronger women’s basketball conference than say, the WAC. It has Duke, North Carolina and Maryland. Back then, there seemed to be a lot more room for advancement. People weren’t constantly talking about BCS and non-BCS schools. The NCAA had its big conferences and not-so-big conferences, but they weren’t outright labeled as such, so it didn’t seem to matter as much.

In NCAA basketball, any Division-I team can theoretically win the championship. Thirty conferences receive automatic berths into the NCAA tournament. It’s drastically different from the football setup, in which six conferences are automatically signed up for a BCS bowl game.

The remaining 34 at-large bids are normally divvied out among schools from the larger conferences. Even the Sun Belt Conference and Patriot League get to step out onto the hardwood against the likes of Tennessee and UConn to show off their stuff come tournament time.

Upward mobility isn’t a birthright in NCAA basketball, but unlike in college football, it’s at least possible.

The BCS is an exclusionary club that has no place outside of college football. Let’s not forget that.

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