• January 22, 2022
 Op-Ed: If You Understand College Football, You Understand What Privilege Is

Op-Ed: If You Understand College Football, You Understand What Privilege Is

Consider the Alabama Crimson Tide and the UTEP Miners football teams.

At the beginning of each football season, both teams have the same number of games to play the same number of players on the field, and the same number of NCAA scholarships to give. In theory, they both have the same “chance” to win the NCAA National Championship, or achieve the “dream.” All the players and coaches have the same hopes and aspirations.

Both teams work just as hard, lift the same amount of weights, and practice on the same length football field. Both teams have dedicated players.

Both teams are told by their schools and coaches, that, if they just work hard enough, they can achieve whatever they set out to achieve.

Among other similarities that both teams share:

Both are Division 1 schools.
Both have to follow the same NCAA and football rules.
Both have access to the same high school football players to recruit.
Both are located in states where football is more religion than sport.

Photo Courtesy Alabama

But when you start to dig a little deeper, it becomes obvious that the two football teams have a great deal of differences. For instance:

Alabama has a climate controlled indoor practice facility to use when the outside temperatures are too hot. UTEP does not and often practices outdoors in 100+ desert temperatures.

Alabama has won 6 NCAA Championships in the last few years, 16 all together. If Alabama is not in the top 10 nationally at the end of the year, it is a disappointing season.

UTEP has had only half a dozen or so winning seasons in the past 5 decades. Last year, they did not win a single game. The coach quit halfway through the season. If UTEP wins 6 games, it is considered a miracle.

Alabama has a deep alumni outreach that will donate about $100 million to the athletic program this year.

UTEP has nothing even close to that amount. A five million dollar year is considered exceptional.

The Alabama coach has a salary upwards of $7 million dollars a year.

The new UTEP coach receives about 10% of the Alabama coach which is less than the average spent per year on two Alabama football players.

In 2015, Alabama spent an average of $420,000 per football player per year.

In 2015, UTEP spent an average of $109,000 per football player per year. 

Alabama averages 101,112 attendees per game.  UTEP averaged about 20,000 last year. The last game of the UTEP season saw about 10,000 attendees, most of whom left by halftime.

A team like Alabama might play a team like UTEP in order to run up their statistics and make their players more impressive to NFL teams. UTEP will play a team like Alabama in order to get a few extra bucks, knowing full well that they will certainly lose.

Since 2000, UTEP has gone to 5 bowl games, including the “prestigious” Humanitarian Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. It has never been

Courtesy 600ESPN El Paso

ranked in preseason or post season top 25 national ranking. Since 2000, Alabama has gone to 16 bowl games including 6 Championship Bowls.

This year, they won the national championship again for the 6th time in 8 years.

Alabama has been ranked 54 times in preseason polls and 56 times in postseason polls. And even if Alabama has a terrible year, as it did when it was caught violating NCAA rules in the early 2000’s, its deep financial pockets, its history, and its national reputation will keep it a nationally spotlighted school for decades.

Even under probation it was able to recruit top high school talent because, well, it was Alabama. UTEP, even if it goes undefeated next year will probably not be able to play in the championship game because it’s opponents are not “elite” teams.

Alabama plays in an “Elite” conference and basically only plays other “elite” opponents.

Even an undefeated record does not assure you a seat at the national championship table. Just ask the University of Central Florida, a non-elite football school, which went undefeated in 2017 yet was not invited to play for the championship.

Now realistically, which one do you think has a better chance of winning next year’s NCAA Football Championship? UTEP or Alabama?
If you can understand how Alabama has a head start on next year’s season, and the seasons to come for decades, simply by being Alabama and UTEP is in a constant state of playing catch up simply because it is UTEP, then you have pretty good idea of what privilege looks like in the United States.

Pretty much no matter what UTEP does, it will never be invited to dine at the same table that Alabama dines at. No matter how hard they work, not even their record will get them to the table.

Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

That is privilege. We can say that Alabama players works harder than UTEP players, but that probably is not true. We can say that Alabama players are more motivated, but that probably is not true either. We can say that everyone has equal chances, but we know that is not true.

We can say that UTEP can achieve the dream of winning it all, but we know that probably they never will, no matter what they do, no matter how hard they work, no matter what.

Our students are the same way. Some of our students come from families that are Alabamas. Many come from families that are UTEPs. Even from birth, from before the season even starts, some students are behind.

For many, as the years progress, just like a UTEP football team, the students fall farther and farther behind not because their parents don’t try, not because of lack of love or motivation. Not because of anything the families have done. Not because they are lazy, or unmotivated or unwilling to try.

But because of standing, because of privilege, because of inequality in the system, some students simply cannot win. They are UTEPs.

In his book “Toxic Inequality: How America’s Wealth Gap Destroys Mobility, Deepens the Racial Divide, and Threatens Our Future” Thomas M. Shapiro lays out what our society must do in order to at least level the playing field so that all students will have that chance. He closes the book with this:

“Placing people, families, and communities at the core of our values and our policy direction can also make America a better nation. We have seen how extreme wealth inequality and widening racial inequality reinforce one another, forming the bedrock of America’s twenty-first-century toxic inequality. The time has come for a reset. None of us can thrive in a nation divided between a small number of people who possess an ever-larger portion of the income and wealth and everyone else increasingly grasping for a declining share and feeling real pain. It tears at the fabric of our society, posing a fundamental problem for democracy and for the well-being of our families, communities, and nation.

Inequality goes far deeper than just income and wealth. It determines who can overcome obstacles: some have them cleared from their path, while others have trouble recovering from even minor mishaps. At its heart, inequality is about access, opportunity, and just rewards. For too long, toxic inequality has defined the landscape of our country, dictating where people live, how they fare, and what futures their children face. Its mechanisms can seem invisible, even inevitable. But they are man-made, forged by history and preserved by policy. Changing them is up to us.”

What are we doing for our students, our children, to move them out of being UTEPs, and allowing them – at least to have a chance – at being an Alabama?


Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback. Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

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  • Many Universities take their sports seriously not to say that UTEP never did, like in basketball back after the 1966 NCAA Championship Title. From then on the Memorial Gym was always sold out,that they had to schedule games in the El Paso County Coliseum for one season. Then back to UTEP till this day and during those years UTEP had coach Don Haskins and he recruited good players that were never quitters.
    The fan base was solid when they built the Special Events Center,all games were always sold out at 12,200 capacity. Now most of those die hard Miner fans are all dead, and the newer generation of Miner Fans are FICKLE People.
    Same with football, I use to work at the captains club at the Sun Bowl stadium during when coach Bob Stull first arrived at UTEP. The Miners had great support from our fans, even though the stadium never sold out, still attendance was in the 42.45,47 and 49 thousand. Most of those fans are also now dead.
    Also the UTEP Miner Students don’t have much team spirit like other universities do! with all that being said and the fickle fan support UTEP sports suck. UTEP is not Alabama, Alabama wins games while UTEP don’t. El Paso deserves better considering that every time the basketball program gets a good quality coach. Here they come again, the athletic directors from other schools offering them MUCHO DINERO $$$ million dollar contracts so off they go to coach elsewhere.
    So once again UTEP is left spinning in the dust, there use to be this group called the Eldorados who would raise money for the UTEP sports program, apparently that was an NCAA violation.
    So where does UTEP get their money to help support their sports program? The University of Texas Board of Directors in Austin don’t give them SQUAT! Does UTEP play the RIG Texas Lottery in hopes of winning the jackpot in order to generate money? I wouldn’t recommend it!
    Pay their coaches more money,but first hire good quality coach’s and the fans might come back, no they can’t do that either,because here they come again the athletic directors from other schools to poach the coach’s and maybe even some players away from UTEP.
    I myself have had great experiences watching UTEP basketballs games,like when they won their first WAC
    Championship game during their first year in the WAC.That game was played at the country coliseum,that was during the Nate Archibald era,we had season tickets to those sold out games as well.
    Is UTEP Sports JINX? a bad spell or curse has been cast upon them! who knows who cares, I’ll take a knee on UTEP sports,life is short.
    And finally, UTEP belongs in the Mountain West Conference, not in C-USA,that could also be the factor that UTEP has lost many of it’s fan base of support.I think that Bob Stull did UTEP both good and bad, good when he first coach at UTEP, bad when he bailed for Missouri. Double bad when he came back as UTEP athletic director. Never made any sense when he would schedule the Miners football teams to play
    the bigger tougher quality schools.Worst when they were exposed on National TV, a total embarrassment! UTEP players would mostly end up getting hurt and injured by the time they would start conference games,they were all banged up and so the losing tradition would continue.
    It’s fair to say, Bring on the New Mexico State Aggies and the UNM Lobos as well.

    • Well Alberto, like I said, it is all about those with something to begin with having such a strong advantage over those that do not, that the race is rigged before it ever starts. Be it college football, or kids trying to get out of poverty, or women trying to break a glass ceiling. Even if UTEP paid their new footbal coach $1,000,000 a year, it would be 1/7th the salary of the Alabama coach.

  • It’s very easy to point at the various inequalities in this country and conclude that something is wrong and needs to change. However, inequality does not necessarily imply inequity. And enormous wealth in and of itself, is not detrimental to society. For instance, Bill Gates’ wealth does not adversely effect everyone else. In fact, I’d argue that the entire world is better off because of him. He has provided a product that has revolutionized the world. Everyone is better off because Bill Gates, through Microsoft, provided a product that has changed the way everyone does business. Same thing can be said about Mark Zuckerberg. He revolutionized social media and created a product that completely changed the world that we live it. So no one is worse off because of these two unbelievably rich individuals. Their wealth does not put me under the poverty level. In fact, I am better off because of them. This is not even considering that both these men have foundations that give back to the community philanthropically.

    Yes, it’s true some come from a better situation than others. Rory John Gates is much more privileged than just about everyone else on the planet. He most definitely is better off than a poor boy growing up in Segundo Barrio. But that doesn’t mean anything. Anyone can be successful. What we need to do is change the culture. The primary reason why so many poor children end up becoming poor adults is because of the choices that are made. Of course, there are those with disabilities who are in a certain situation through no fault of their own, but the vast majority have made and continue to make choices that keep them in poverty.

    The largest contributor to families living under the poverty line is single parent households. Society is not causing this to occur. The racist and evil Donald Trump is not causing these individuals choices to be made. In order to change the landscape, we must abolish this victim mentality that we have all grown accustom to. I’ve heard it far to often. There is systemic racism holding people of color back. This is a horrible cop out. It’s easy to blame society for everything bad that has happened to you. How is it that we expect to those born into less fortunate circumstances to pull themselves out of it if we keep blaming a name less face less evil that has been put in place only to keep them down. How can we expect success if we continue to teach our children that their failures aren’t the result of something lacking on their part, but is the result the system making sure that they they stay down. Anyone can find there way out of poverty. However, they must make a concerted effort to do so. Let change the culture. Lets stop this privileged lunacy.

  • Adrian, thank you for your thoughts.

    So you say, if we use the article I wrote as an example, that UTEP COULD win the national championship next year if they just make better choices? A kid in Montana Vista , living with her parents in a colinia, can become a billioniare if they just “Make better choices?”

    The two examples you use, Gates and Zuckerburg, are both examples of people coming from priviledge, White males in this case from well off families. Gates’ father was a prominent lawyer, and his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way. Gates’s maternal grandfather was JW Maxwell, a national bank president. He attanded private schools.

    Zuckerberg had parents that were dentists and lawyers. He attended private school and went to Harvard.

    Both started out ahead of the game. They were given quarterhorses to race in life, while many children today, especially in our own community are given donkeys. They may complete the race, but they wont “win.”

    • Mr. Holt, thank you so much for taking the time to reply. It is only through discourse such as this that we can truly make a meaningful impact.

      I am not saying that UTEP can win the national title. I am rejecting the metaphor altogether. In your example, Alabama stands in UTEP’s way. They both cannot be champions. The SEC and all the national powerhouses like the current system and do not want to change it to give school’s like UTEP a chance. And as a result, we will likely never see a National Champion that was not once a BCS school. Everything is stacked against small and unprivileged schools. The system is set up to make sure that this keeps happening. This is not the case with those born into poverty.

      I mentioned Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates not to show them as an example of two individuals who clawed their way out of poverty. I mentioned them because they are filthy rich individuals, but they do not stand in the way, nor do they negatively affect the life of a young girl growing up in a Montana Vista Colonia. In fact, they have made this young girl’s life better through their world innovations. I’m sure even a poor girl from Montana Vista has used Word and logged into Facebook. 25 years ago, someone in her exact circumstances would not have access to any computer technology. Because of the innovation and the development of many individuals like Zuckerburg and Gates, computers are much more accessible to everyone. So these rich men have enriched her life, where as Alabama sucks the life out of it’s competitors.

      It’s really unlikely that anyone will become a billionaire. There are only 540 in America today. So, no, a poor girl from Montana Vista will not likely become America’s 541st. Even Gates and Zuckerburg got incredibly lucky to be part of a particular market at exactly the right time. But that doesn’t mean that She can’t be successful. That doesn’t mean that her children won’t be born to a doctor and a lawyer. Mountain View High School has incredible teachers and staff working very hard to make sure that all students have the opportunity. It is, however, up to the individual students to find that success. In my teaching career, (I am an El Paso teacher) I have had 3 students accepted to Ivy League schools. One of them came from really awful circumstances. Remember in the mid 90’s Ysleta High School had an eye popping 6 students accepted into MIT. That success made national news. So yes, success is possible. As a teacher my biggest problem is not a lack of ability, its apathy. It isn’t the privileged holding them back, its the culture.

      • Excuse me. In 1992, Ysleta High School had 5 accepted into MIT from a single graduating class. I said it was 6. The correct number is 5 students.

  • Adrian, Thank you.
    I think that for the most part, the young girl has a good chance of having at least an equal life, (if you define it as socio economic status) than her parents, but perhaps not a better one. She will live longer, maybe, but not be wealthier. Studies now suggest that children today will actually have less earning power than their parents did (https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/12/09/504989751/u-s-kids-far-less-likely-to-out-earn-their-parents-as-inequality-grows) because of inequality that is growing. I have no issue that tools invented by Ford, Edison, Gates et al has made life EASIER for many, but they certainly have not made life equitable for many either In fact, I suggest that the rich have become richer , while the middle class in the US has gotten poorer and the poor have gotten poorer at least in terms of savings. purchasing power, etc. No less than Fortune Magazine made the point that if present trends continue, Blacks and Hispanics will be broke , as a group, in just a few decades. (http://fortune.com/2017/09/19/racial-inequality-wealth-gap-america/)

    You make my point exactly that UTEP will never be able to win the BCS because the system is rigged against them, much like the system is rigged against the girl in Montana Vista.

    I think we do our children a disservice by telling them that they can be “anything” they want to be when they grow up. If the system was not rigged, then Ysleta HS would have 5 students a year going to MIT, not just as a one off years. In fact, students would regularly be in Ivy League schools form El Paso. It would be so common that it would not even be news.

    You say “The SEC and all the national powerhouses like the current system and do not want to change it to give school’s like UTEP a chance.” I say you are correct. I also say that the current white male power structure looks at that girl in Montana Vista much like Alabama looks at UTEP.

  • Here is an inteeresting statistic: 1% of the world’s population control 82% of the wealth. That means 99% of the world population are trying to get 18% of the world’s wealth. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-42745853

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