Against the Grain II

The FBS playoff selection is reminiscent of Black exclusion

Vaughn Wilson

On Dec. 20, the College Football Playoff Committee selected four teams to compete for the collegiate national championship.  

The obvious No. 1 seed was the undefeated Southeastern Conference (SEC) champion Alabama Crimson Tide. The second seed was the once-defeated Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) champion Clemson Tigers. The third seed went to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the fourth went to the Ohio State Buckeyes, champions of the Big 10 Conference.

For the sake of discussion, Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State were all conference champions.  The rubric for selecting teams put that at a premium.  Notre Dame, coming off a lopsided loss to Clemson did not win the ACC. 

Meanwhile, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats went undefeated and won the American Athletic Conference (AAC) championship by defeating a resilient Tulsa team.  The AAC is an NCAA Division-I conference.

Though they are Division-I, college football has clearly discriminated against schools with lesser resources no matter their performance on the field.  There are two major groupings of conferences in Division-I.  The big elite group call themselves the “Power 5” conferences.  The next level of schools call themselves the “Group of Five.” 

Cincinnati, eerily similar to how the University of Central Florida (UCF) was treated after going undefeated and winning the AAC in 2017, was basically told that even though they are a Division-I football team, they were not equal to the Power 5 schools.  They all played the game with 11 men at a time.  They all played 15-minute quarters.  They played by the same rules, same length football field and same regulation college footballs.

This gross undervaluation of teams in the NCAA is nothing new.  In fact, Black folks have been dealing with this juxtaposition for centuries. From not being considered a human to being considered three-fourths of a human to not being treated as equals, Blacks have endured despite the blatant discrimination.

For centuries, Black parents have had to tell their children that they have to work harder for things than non-Blacks. They have had to fight for the right to be considered a human, the right to vote and to not be discriminated against.  The effort to attain equal pay for equal work has been the focus of many case studies that have all concluded that there is clear evidence that Blacks are not considered the same in various rubrics of measure.

While the Bearcats will move along and play in the Peach Bowl against the Georgia Bulldogs, their hearts will mourn for the opportunity to play in the college football playoffs.  There is nothing as humbling as being told that no matter how good you are, you’re just not good enough. It’s a reality many Blacks over the years have come to realize in an often unjust society.