For the last several years, everyone has been saying that we need more teams competing. But we always run into the problem that to compete, you need to:
1) Build or buy a buggy.
2) Qualify a driver
3) Practice (if you want to be good).
4) Show up to the start of your race.
in the context you used, by 'compete', you really mean participate. There is a difference between participation and competition. Knowing the difference will help us understand why there are fewer orgs participating and why their efforts may seem feeble.
You also failed to include, to participate you need to attend to the duties associated with participation (meters, sweeping, flagging, barricades, bales...). These take people.
So, there are 5 elements of participation.
Participation != competition.
To compete, one should have a possibility of doing well against other competitors. a level playing field is needed. Major sports struggle with this. We do not even try.
What does it take to move from participation to competition?
6) Recruit a really good push team (this was the biggest difference between top teams this year)
7) buy or develop a really good set of wheels (almost everyone is there now)
8) buy or develop a reasonable buggy/prep (there are a few teams where this is still an issue)
If you look at who did well this year, they have the following in common:
They have been well funded for an extended period of time allowing accumulation and refinement of buggies, prep, and wheels.
They have been on a pace of least one new buggy every 3 years or more.
They are large in terms of membership or barriers to joining are low
They have a significant alumni population
With the exception of sig epp, they have push teams assembled from the 13,285 students attending CMU. Sig Epp is relatively large but not 13k large.
Those are the elements that differentiate the competitors from the participants. The most common thread is that they are generally large in terms of members or potential members and well funded either as a result of their size or by student activity fees.
What do the other teams lack: $$$, push talent and in some cases, alumni population or buggy tech.
It is really hard to imagine that a frat with 20 to 30 members can put together a push team on par with any independent or even that of a house with 100 members. It is also hard to imagine that they could pull together, out of their own pockets, a budget capable of building a buggy annually.
When faced with those challenges to being competitive, it is not too hard to see why simple participation is not very attractive. Putting in the effort and paying out of pocket to have your ass kicked by someone against you never had a chance and who you are also probably funding (via student activity fees) is simply not attractive.
So, how does one make it so smaller teams can compete? it is about the $$$$ and access to talent. your proposal does not address that.
Is competing in a minor league version of buggy attractive? I do not know. Seems like the wildcard is which buggy you get and what sort of prep is has. Not sure how that is determined but it feels like a crap shoot. I do know that your proposal will make the rich teams richer via renting buggies to the poor teams. That does not seem like a a way to to address the growing gap.
So, how do we fix the financing? The last thing this race needs is another cia, fringe, or sdc or spirit buggy. And yet, we can set our clocks by the appearance of at least 3 next year. So, cut that shit out. Rather than pour more $$ into another round of builds, how about raining money on the frats as incentive for building buggies, and fielding teams. Concurrently, cut the funds for other independents so that a new buggy is not possible every year. Bust up whatever scheme SDC uses to fund their stuff and spread that stuff around. Give the shoe bank to the poor.
And how to deal with the talent pool? Raising the barriers for participation is not the answer. It might be easier to simply kill the rule about who can push for a frat. At least then the playing field is closer to level. I am clearly biased in this as my home team, is in the best position to benefit from such changes.