College Football Fans Should be both Thankful and Worried This Year
Thanksgiving is one of those times of year where most of us take a step back, reflect and look for the good in life. And since this space is reserved for Sports related stuff---usually College Football, reflecting back is exactly what I'm going to do.
For all of its warts--and there are a ton of them, College Football in the Southeastern and Southwestern U.S along with parts of the Midwest is the biggest, baddest game in town. History, pageantry and a chance for people who don't always get along or see each other much to root for a common goal.
But for all of the history and tradition, the game is at a crossroads. For the last decade or two as teams moved from their traditional conference bases to more lucrative conferences the game has been changing. In some ways for the better--and others, not so much.
It's the history and tradition which made College Football. It's for many in Division II and Division III and even the NAIA something that still exists. Home games are days when the town largely shuts down and people come in from surrounding communities to tailgate, to catch up on life and enjoy the game.
Mind you--this still happens in the era of "Power 5" Football, but it is not the same thing. It doesn't have the same feel as at the "Power 5" level, it has become about money a.k.a business.
We're talking about an era where Nick Saban makes nearly $10 million a year to coach. Where an Ohio State is talking about $100 million a year in revenue and where despite the money being thrown around--the players don't "Legally" see any of it.
It's an era where schools have become more concerned about mega-donors and corporate suites in their gargantuan stadiums and how much money they're getting for marketing and TV rights. And the pursuit of that money has created some monsters.
It's an era where Alabama drops $20+ million to build a super swanky, mega-gargantuan Athletics Building. Where Clemson builds an Athletics Building with a water slide and other crazy toys.
Yeah, I know--this is devolved from a "What are you thankful for?" to a "What the problem is" kind of column but it's an issue that I feel strongly about.
College Football desperately needs to change and the change at least at the top would be simple and I'm pretty sure will happen. But it will wait until they get the next "Broadcast" payday in 2023...
The "Power 5" need to be just that, their own group. Let the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC form their own league and play games only against each other for a title.
Let the "Group of 5", the AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt compete against each other and play for a title.
The way things are currently set up---there is ZERO chance of a Group of 5 school ever playing for a title. None.
It doesn't matter if UCF wins 23 or 33 straight games they won't get in the College Football Playoff. Ever....It's the way the system is currently set up.
Realistically under the current system, you are looking at a very small group of teams competing for that playoff berth every season.
Alabama, occasionally Auburn, Georgia, occasionally Florida, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Oklahoma, Texas, Clemson and occasionally an FSU or Miami and maybe someone out of the Pac 12. These are the only teams who will be in College Football Playoff contention year in and year out. And not so coincidentally these are the teams who generate the most revenue and have the deepest "Donor" pockets...
Meanwhile, most of the Group of 5 struggle to make a profit each season while trying to keep up with the big pocketed "Big Boys"....many of these schools actually lose money each year once expenses are factored in.
And that has to change. That's why I'm saying this. If the ESPN's and Fox Sports of the world are willing to pay the "Power 5" a gazillion dollars---then someone else will pay the Group of 5.
I want to live in a College Football world where my alma mater (Georgia Southern) has a chance to win something other than the Sun Belt Conference title. I want to live in a world where we get to play for a National Championship.
Southern won 5 of them at the FCS level which was awesome (2 while I was in school), but we have absolutely ZERO chance of winning the College Football playoff.
The reward of a "Group of 5" school---particularly a Sun Belt School: Win your conference and play in a "Mid December" bowl game schedule at 2 in the afternoon on a Tuesday on ESPN.
And that is not much of an incentive....
I'm sorry this devolved into a largely negative column, but it is what it is. I want to see College Football be "The Game", I want it to be something for everyone. But in order to do that, change is needed.
On this day where we're all thankful for the things and people we have---Celebrate the game. Celebrate the kids who play it.
Most of them just want to compete and win. Most of them just want to be successful.
And what more should anyone be thankful for than seeing kids that want to accomplish something....