University of Toledo Marketing major Mark Bouazizi had just seen up become down. Black morph into white. He felt gravity pulling sideways. His world was cracking after his non-BCS conference Toledo Rockets lost a game in overtime last Saturday to a BCS conference Big East team, the Syracuse Orange. The overtime never should have happened, since Syracuse was awarded an extra point their kicker clearly missed, even after an official review of the replay–by Big East officials. The visiting senior walked out of Carrier Dome in a daze, and the home fans could only shake their heads and sympathize. But that wasn’t enough. Bouazizi headed to the parking lot and doused himself with gasoline. He shouted “The MAC [Mid-American Conference] is great!” before setting himself alight.
Already accepted as one of the most mind-boggling officiating gaffes in the 150-year long history of college football, last Saturday’s blown PAT call in the game between Toledo and Syracuse added to deep-seated resentment of the ruling conferences by the marginalized Middle Major populace. In the wake of Bouazizi’s self-immolation, a wave of protests has broken out across the regions. Protests started in Ohio and quickly spread, causing many BCS conference leaders to organize hasty reforms including more games played between the two tiers, and increased TV broadcast rights. But many of the protesters won’t settle for anything less than dissolution of the current regime. A large contingent of Rocket fans continue to camp out in the parking lot of the Carrier Dome, since renamed Martyr’s Square.
However, not all were receptive to the demands. Human Rights Watch and activist groups claim SEC officials are carrying out brutal crackdowns on protesters. Reports are impossible to confirm, as the SEC has not allowed non-regional journalists in its territory, but cell phone video allegedly from a protest in Gainesville, FL shows multiple UCF students being tazed by University of Florida police. UF chancellor Bernie Machen dismissed the unrest as the work of “criminal gangs, backed by the West…Coast universities in the Pac-12.”
*Note: The reporter did ask a group of protestors why they referred to the uprisings as the “Mid-Major Spring” when it was, in fact, autumn. The supporters immediately put their index fingers on their noses, and the slowest one to do so sighed before explaining to me what a metaphor was.