College Football Remains America’s Largest Multi-Level Marketing Program | college football
Aapproximately 30 minutes after the start of episode two of the Amazon Original LuLaRich series – the latest addition to a growing catalog of popular documentaries and exhibitions exploring the fascinating, albeit ethically dubious, world of multilevel marketing – viewers are finally aware of the unsettling logic at the center of this most American. In the MLM world, success has very little to do with selling products (in this case colorful leggings made by a California company called LuLaRoe), and everything to do with selling a promise. One that by design is to remain largely unmaintained.
“There has always been tremendous pressure to recruit, recruit, recruit,” says Courtney Harwood, one of the few affable former LuLaRoe retailers who make up the narrative heart of the series, referring to the characteristic emphasis of multi-marketing. levels on enlisting new members on simply selling the product to a third party. “Buy, buy, buy. Recruit, recruit, recruit, ”she adds,“ you will get there ”.
What makes LuLaRich, and other MLM-based content, so compelling to viewers is that Harwood’s “there” references are too often an illusion, usually peddled by a hypnotically charismatic founder whose rhetorical and rhetorical approach. Aesthetic is a dark mix of evangelist Billy Graham and 1970s consumer electronics scholar Crazy Eddie. Watching the scam at the center of the whole business unfold slowly is good TV after all.
Either way, what we learn along the way is usually a variation on a theme: the wealth and prestige promised to anyone who engages in a multi-level marketing company will never be appreciated except by a small one. elite group, whose continued success nonetheless depends on an army of enthusiastic minions continuing to pursue the dream. It is they who support the system, those who generate the wealth enjoyed by those at the top.
“If you look at a tiered marketing program, you will see that over half of all the money goes to the richest 1%,” says MLM expert Robert Fitzpatrick, as most of those surveyed looking directly at the camera. “Over 80% have no one below them. They must lose. So the structure itself condemns the vast majority.
If all of this sounds familiar to you – a system set up to favor a small elite class, supernaturally optimistic weirdo leaders speaking in self-help clichés, abusive labor practices … of recruiting – you might be a fan. college football.
It’s worth saying out loud, for everyone’s sake, that half of the teams participating in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision have no chance of winning the competition in which they compete. It’s not a bit of punditry mind you. When I say they don’t stand a chance, I mean no matter how well they perform on the pitch, they probably won’t be able to advance to the playoffs that crown a champion.
It’s a matter of simple arithmetic, really. Only four of the 130 teams competing at the FBS level will be selected to participate in the college football qualifiers, and decisions about who deserves these coveted spots are left to a 13-member panel who acts as the sole referee. So unlike its basketball counterpart, where winning your conference tournament earns you an automatic bid and the selection committee argues over which of the two or three mediocre teams deserves the last of the 36 spots in general, you analyze them. relative strengths and weaknesses of programs that have won all, or all but one, of their matches. These are incredibly fine margins, and the result is that schools emerging from what are known as the “Power Five” conferences – the SEC, the Big Ten, the ACC, the Big 12, and the Pac-12 – benefit. of a considerable advantage, especially those with cultural and economic capital stores like Alabama, Ohio State or Notre Dame.
In my many years of covering college football, this rather mundane unspoken truth about its underlying competitive structure has never failed to amaze me. It is both astonishing and singular in American and world sport that teams willingly participate in a competition whose very framework does its best to deny them the opportunity to win it no matter what they do, and that includes completing their competition. undefeated season.
The list of schools that finished with perfect records since the turn of the century but were left out of the playoff finals or half-baked championship at the time is long and may well be longer by the end of this year. this season. Utah in 2004 and 2008, Boise State in 2006 and 2009, TCU in 2010, and Central Florida in 2017 all ended their seasons with perfect records but couldn’t come close to a national title shot than a trip to a bigger one. lucrative, but ultimately meaningless bowl game. The competitive equivalent of a patronizing pat on the head.
They were celebrated by fans and the media, of course, but because they came from outside the aforementioned Power Five, earning a place at the college football high table was the longest long shot. As is the case with LuLaRoe and other MLM programs, it’s this titillating proximity to success that ultimately reveals the scam.
The biggest budding underdog this season comes from the American Athletic Conference in the form of the University of Cincinnati. Soon the Bearcats will enter the Big 12, a Power Five perch from which an unbeaten record would come one step closer to securing them a playoff spot. But for now, they remain members of the college football proletariat, meant to serve little more than water in the mill.
If fans had forgotten that, they received a rude reminder on November 2 when the first college football playoff standings were released and Cincinnati ended up in sixth, away watching the four-team playoffs. This despite an 8-0 record, a number two ranking in both the AP and the coaches poll and a road victory over the then unbeaten Notre-Dame.
Three weeks later, however, things are improving. With a little help (ironically) from the University of Utah, the Bearcats made it to the top four and find themselves poised to become the first non-Power Five school to advance to the playoffs, but their position is hardly certain. They could of course lose one of their two remaining games, but regardless, the odds are still against those of the college football aristocracy. If the opportunity presented itself, there is no doubt that the committee would break Bearcat’s heart.
Whatever happens, it should be obvious that the problem here isn’t the effort. In addition to being successful on the field, Cincinnati has also enthusiastically embarked on the varsity track and field arms race, spending impressive sums on stadium renovations and coaching salaries. Just as the sports department needed, according to a report, $ 250 million in grants from university coffers over the past decade and more.
This is to participate in a competition that does not guarantee them anything, even if they win all their matches. As Fitzpatrick might put it, they are part of the vast majority that is “doomed”. Like a LuLaRoe retailer buying box after box of leggings promising they too could end up on stage with the founder, covered in glitter and celebrating financial independence, FBS schools outside of the Power Five are getting ripped off.
You might be excused for thinking that the Bearcats’ impending Big 12 climb, or even a random appearance in this season’s playoffs, would prove college football’s equal good faith, but you’d be wrong (just ask 11-0 Texas-San Antonio which are far 22nd in the last CFP ranking). A stranger who has crushed the party in the 23 years since the introduction of the Bowl Championship Series – and with it a semblance of a cohesive competitive structure – is hardly proof of anything. Except that occasionally, or perhaps necessarily, there has to be parity.
As with so many facets of American life, the underprivileged of the college football world are a feature, not a bug, of the system, acting as fodder and giving the illusion of robust competition, which will inevitably produce another pool of competition. Gatorade. for Nick Saban. They donate the bodies of their “student-athletes”, the resources of their university, the hopes and dreams of their alumni and fans for the slightest sniff of the riches and prestige bestowed on their grid bettors.
If the momentum means anything, we might one day get an expanded playoff format, hopefully accessible to all FBS programs. In fact, it could be run even more if Cincinnati ended up undefeated and missed. It can’t come soon enough for me anyway. There are many problems with college football, and while we can’t solve them all at once, we could start with the most basic. We could make the contest itself, well, a real contest, instead of a pyramid scheme.