Immoral Mismatch or Just Another Game? Rivals.com Framing of Fbs-Fcs Football Games

By Kian, Edward M.; Lee, Jason W. et al. | Journal of Contemporary Athletics, April 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Immoral Mismatch or Just Another Game? Rivals.com Framing of Fbs-Fcs Football Games


Kian, Edward M., Lee, Jason W., Gregg, Elizabeth, Kane, Jennifer J., Journal of Contemporary Athletics


Introduction

Sport fans have long debated the topic of running up the score on opponents (Keating, 1964). Many sport philosophers and journalists have criticized this practice as an example of poor sportsmanship (Feezell, 1999; Sailors, 2010). However, the practice of teams willfully scheduling contests against inferior opponents has historically received less attention. That has changed in recent years, most noticeably after a Texas high school girls basketball team defeated another, 100-0 (Sailors, 2010). Scheduling easy opponents, however, has long been routine in college football, where a majority of marquee programs in the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) play 66-75% of their non- conference games against lesser FBS programs or teams in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Southern Cal are prominent examples of FBS programs, while most members of the FCS are lesser- known universities such as Eastern Washington, Georgia Southern, Sam Houston State, and Western Carolina.

Many athletics directors and coaches claim these games are necessary. The powerful teams point to an economic boost for their athletics programs and communities due to an extra home game. FBS programs generally keep 100% of profits after paying FCS schools lump sums to visit on single-game contracts (Tucker, 2012). Thus, media now commonly dub these as "pay to play" or "paycheck" games (Rishe, 2012). In contrast, athletics officials and coaches at FCS programs argue they must schedule paycheck games to help fund their entire athletics budgets (Solomon, 2013). Small schools also market these matchups to prospective recruits who want to compete against the best programs in the country and dream of an upset. This point is highlighted by FCS powerhouse Appalachian State's 34-32 historic 2007 victory at then fifth-ranked Michigan. That was an anomaly, though. Entering the 2012 season, FCS teams defeated ranked FBS programs just twice in 2,252 meetings dating back to the 19th Century (Temple, 2012). From 2000-11, the favored teams from the FBS won matchups with FCS opponents by an average of 25.9 points (Temple, 2012).

In recent years, national college football media members, such as analysts on the influential ESPN television show, College Game Day, criticized powerhouse programs that schedule FCS teams, pointing to potential physical and psychological damage for FCS players, along with major differences in scholarship numbers, resources, and athletic budgets that create competitive imbalances between the FBS and FCS. "The system sucks," wrote Greg Doyle (2012) of CBSSports.com. "We already knew that. But when the greed, gluttony and competitive imbalance rears its head in a moment like Oklahoma State 84-0 over Savannah State... it makes you wonder why they bother" (16).

Many college football fans have voiced their displeasure for FBS-FCS matchups through poor ticket sales and/or attendance for these games (even though they are rarely televised nationally), along with expressing their complaints about these lopsided games via mediums such as talk radio and Internet message boards (Staples, 2012; Temple, 2012). The most popular college football message boards for most major programs are generally found on the independent, team Web sites affiliated with the Rivals.com and Scout.com networks, nearly all of which focus the majority of their content on college football, men's basketball, and providing extensive recruiting coverage for those two sports (Clavio, 2008; Kian, Clavio, Vincent, & Shaw, 2011). Whereas those sites have no direct affiliation with the colleges they cover, their economic success is largely contingent upon having their content acquiesce to the desires and majority opinions of their subscribers, some of whom obviously are not excited to read about FBS-FCS matchups, because the vast majority of those games end in blowouts. …

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