The Major College American Football Ecosystem
Intercollegiate sports play a prominent role in the North American sports
sector, engaging tens of thousands of student-athletes and inflaming the pas-
sions of millions of students, parents, alumni, and fans. At the highest level
in popular sports such as American football (from here simply “football”) and
basketball, intercollegiate games and tournaments draw large crowds and
massive media audiences and generate substantial revenues for colleges and
universities and other associated parties. Top coaches command multimil-
lion-dollar salaries and elite players may earn many millions of dollars later
in life as professional athletes. Indeed, in football, basketball, and a few other
sports, success at the intercollegiate level for both coaches and student-ath-
letes may foreshadow a lucrative career in professional sports.
As evident from the ecosystem around major college football in Figure A2
(see below for clarification of the acronyms) – the map of constituencies and
interests resembles that of professional sports, with governing bodies, teams,
broadcasters and advertisers, equipment and clothing manufacturers, game
developers, fantasy leagues, and bookmakers present and accounted for. This
ecosystem also includes constituencies unique to football at this level, in-
of coaches and sportswriters, which determine national ranking
and affect recruiting of players and coaches, sponsorship agreements, mer-
chandise sales, and television advertising rates;
bowl committees
, which recruit
teams for profitable post-season games; and the
National Football League
, which
relies on college football for training and development of young talent.
The best (or best-supported) teams in Division I comprise the Football Bowl
Subdivision (FBS), competing to participate in the post-season bowl games
televised in December and January each year. Among the several dozen bowl
games, the five richest and most prestigious are determined by the Bowl
Championship Series (BCS), a computer-based ranking system that provides
an alternative to a play-off system. The BCS ranks the top ten teams in the
country, determines which two will play for the title in the BCS National
Championship game, and endorses other bowl games for the remaining eight
teams. Given the publicity and money at stake, criteria and weighting in the
BCS selection process are controversial: an appearance in a BCS bowl game
GUARDING THE GAME Preserving the Integrity of Sport
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