If MLB is broken, what is NCAA football?

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It was written in the comment section yesterday, and not for the first time, that MLB is broken. Many agree. The gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ is too wide and that’s mainly due to the absence of a salary cap.

Yes, a ‘have-not’ will sometimes bridge that divide -- as the Pirates did last season by making the playoffs. But it remains to be seen if they can continue to do that or, better still, reach the World Series, where so-called small-market teams rarely play.

So if MLB is broken what does that make NCAA football?

Does anyone believe that the likes of Pitt, Virginia, Indiana and, yes, Penn State and West Virginia, are closer to a national championship win than the Pirates or Kansas City Royals are to a World Series victory?

The topic is on the table today because Pitt, 4-4, plays Notre Dame, a participant in the national championship game last season, tonight at Heinz Field.

The opinion here is that chances of Pitt and many schools like it winning a national championship are more remote than the Pirates being victorious in the World Series.

Obviously, with so many more college teams and with fewer involved in the playoffs, the math is clearly against the likes of Pitt. But there’s another reason, which might be as great. It’s the same reason that holds back the Pirates: Money.

The Pirates have difficulty reaching the top in MLB because they don’t have the money to pay -- and continue to pay -- the best players. Players aren’t paid in college football but money is just as mighty a constraint as it is in MLB.

Money fuels coaching salaries, recruiting and facilities. Those are arms races that never end in college athletics and the schools with the money -- make that the schools with the willingness to spend the money -- will continue to dominate.

The chance of Pitt and schools like it ever catching up to the Alabamas of the world is remote.

The Panthers will have to satisfy themselves with the occasional window of opportunity that might make them a factor in the Atlantic Coast Conference and with games against the likes of Notre Dame, which put them in the national spotlight.

A Pitt win tonight would be grand. It would virtually assure that it reaches the official level of college football mediocrity -- bowl eligibility -- and give the program an overall boost, especially in recruiting.

Further, it would serve to raise the hopes of the fan base, who continually hope for a return to the glory days of 35-40 years ago.

But, face it, there is no more uneven playing field in major American team sports than NCAA football.


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