Socialism is, in many circles, a dirty word. It gets used to demonize any institutional program used to level the playing field, as if the unfettered accumulation of wealth by an elite class is somehow better.
You're thinking this is a sudden and unwelcome political rant, but it's actually about something far more relevant to us: the NCAA. The other day here in Oklahoma, radio host Jim Traber went on a bit of a screed about how the NCAA is a socialist institution.
Traber's main argument revolved around the 85-scholarship limit for FBS football, and how that limit is only in place as -- wait for it -- a socialist measure. Further, Traber argued that it doesn't even work since the same teams keep winning championships anyway. Let's unpack this, shall we?
It is true that with the exception of Florida State, nobody's really cracked the national championship party in the last thirty years or so. But let's examine that for a minute. Fifteen teams have won the national championship in the last 25 years. (Six other teams have won "a" national championship, but here we're talking about the AP, coaches poll, BCS, and playoffs... yet it's probably worth noting that four of those six other teams are Missouri, TCU, Oklahoma State, and Utah. That sort of works against Traber's argument, doesn't it?)
But still, that's fifteen teams. Now stop and think about all the teams which have routinely finished in the top 15 of the final polls over the same span which were basically nothing prior to the implementation of scholarship limits. K-State. Virginia Tech. Oregon. Stanford. Wisconsin. Florida, who has won a national title. We can even throw in teams who haven't necessarily sustained long-term success like Northwestern, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Oklahoma State. or teams which had once been powers but had fallen on harder times like Michigan State and TCU, or schools which have risen to prominence more recently like the Mississippi schools.
I've probably forgotten some schools that should have been mentioned here, which of course just illustrates the point even further: the idea that the implementation of scholarship limits hasn't worked is absurd. It just hasn't resulted in a complete overturning of the established order. What, someone thought this was going to destroy Alabama and Texas?
Traber also pointed out that back in the day, the power schools would have 150 guys on scholarship... and he specifically mentioned that they did this so that other schools couldn't sign them. He's exactly right about that fact, but completely fails to grasp its significance to anything other than competitive balance.
On what planet is it beneficial for college football as a sport for many of the best players in the nation to buried on Alabama's scout team? That's what happened back in those days when the big boys hoarded all the talent; it's entirely possible that the tenth-most talented running back in the country in 1964 never played a down because of this.
Football players, as a rule, don't recognize reality very well when it comes to their place in the pecking order. There's a reason why every year there are thousands of kids enrolling for their freshman year in college convinced that they're going to make it to the NFL, when literally less than ten percent of them are going to make it. It's because if you don't think you can beat out your competition at Texas, you're not an NFL player. So "we win championships" was (and still is) a powerful recruiting tool, even if it means great players never see the field.
What the scholarship limits did was push those guys out to the K-States, the Virginia Techs, the Oregons. That, in turn, pushed the best players at those schools to the MAC, to the WAC, to the better FCS schools. And so on down the line. That's not "increasing competitive balance." That's increasing opportunities for players -- the guys who aren't seeing any of the massive revenue the sport now brings in, so who perhaps deserve whatever assistance the sport's ruling body can give them.
One argument Traber didn't make, but that I've heard before, is that the scholarship limits had the effect of reducing academic opportunities overall. This is also not true. This is not an exaggeration: there are over a hundred schools in FBS, FCS, and Division II which did not even have football in the 1960s. Why do they now? Because there's a demand... and, perhaps more importantly, because there's more available talent. It's a net increase in scholarship availability, and it's not even close. Throw in the increase in actual playing time and this is a no-brainer.
That's without even noting that every FBS football team which plays football now but didn't in 1960 also leads to another 85 academic opportunities... for women. Or without pointing out that as a result of Title IX, allowing the big powerhouses to have unlimited football scholarships would in turn also result in those schools exerting complete and utter dominance over women's sports as well, because 150 football scholarships means 150 scholarships have to be granted to women athletes.
And when you consider that, you suddenly realize exactly why schools like Alabama, Texas, USC, and Ohio State actually agreed with implementing scholarship limits on football in the first place. It's a personnel-intensive sport, and with Title IX being the law of the land, they had a vested interest here.
It's easy to pick on the NCAA. They do a lot wrong. But to argue that they're ruining college football by limiting scholarships is asinine. In fact, doing so may have saved college athletics as a whole.
Jeff checked in with the visual box score for the Oklahoma State debacle.
Ken Corbitt at the Capital-Journal offers some further post-mortem on the sudden post-Oklahoma faceplant.
Also from Corbitt, it's time to start talking baseball. Brad Hill seems pretty excited by the arms on his staff this spring.
K-State's track team posted a ton of personal bests and a school record this weekend at the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, but podium finishes were fairly sparse. On Saturday, Lucas Koch won the men's mile and Ifenayichukwu Otuonye won the long jump, while Akela Jones took third in the women's long jump and Brady Grunder snagged bronze in the men's weight throw.
Sunday's men's 3000m saw K-State grab first and second courtesy of Colton Donohue and Brett Bachman, while Kimberly Williamson took first in the high jump. Christoff Bryan was second in the men's high jump, as well.
Next up: the Steve Miller Open this weekend at Ahearn.
The spring season is underway. K-State's women took tenth place in a 12-team field at the Florida State Match-Up at Don Veller Seminole Golf Course in Tallahassee. The Cats were 47 strokes back of the hosts, who carded the best score for the event. Madison Talley was the top Wildcat, finishing tied for 23rd with a nine-over 225, 14 shots behind Texas A&M's Maddie Szeryk. K-State heads to Phoenix this weekend for the Westbrook Invitational.