College Football Can Be So Much Better

Sometime later this week – – or maybe early next week – – I will post my musings about the upcoming college football season.  Therefore, I spent some time this weekend organizing my thoughts in something like an outline form and then looking up all the chazerai* that would be needed to fill out such a rant.

*Note:  Chazerai is a Yiddish word meaning nasty/unpleasant details surrounding “stuff”.

The more I looked around and thought about college football as it is in 2023 and as it will likely be in 2025, the more I became convinced that my idea from years ago which tried to amalgamate 128 Division 1-A football schools into some sort of coherent structure was a really bad idea.  I will now formally renounce that suggestion and perform an act of self-flagellation for ever thinking of it.  The situation boils down to this in 2023 and it will not get any “better” so long as the sport continues along its current trajectory:

  • College conferences do not now make much sense and will make less sense as time moves on.
  • College football is the biggest money maker for most schools; men’s basketball is a secondary income stream for some schools.
  • Predator conferences only pick off the best teams in other conferences.
  • NIL money was supposed to reward college athletes who “toiled for nothing” and it was not supposed to be a recruiting mechanism.  Now it is virtually exclusively a recruiting tool.

College football has taken a vector heading that turns college football into low-level professional football.  Please do not allow anyone to say such a thing within earshot of NCAA HQs in Indianapolis, IN; the good folks there would probably succumb to seizures in such a circumstance.

When Oregon and Washington join the Big-10, there will be 18 teams in the conference.  [Aside:  The Count from Sesame Street would be VERY confused by such an alignment …] But imagine if the Big 10 just added two more teams to make 20 teams – – meaning they could have 4 divisions of 5 teams each and then have a 4-team conference playoff to determine its conference champion.  Think about the TV money for those games and drool …

Apply the same thinking to the SEC – – and maybe to the Big-12 which will also have lots more than 12 teams competing in it by 2025.  That potential deluge of TV money in December might be limited by another factor:

  • The Big-10, the SEC and the Big-12 all have perennial weak-sisters in their midst.
  • TV execs love to show Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, USC, Washington et. al. playing one another.  They do not like having to telecast Rutgers/Maryland or Illinois/Indiana.  Remember, money talks and bulls[p]it walks …

Why would not the next phase of college football realignment involve the top 3 conferences splitting off their 6 best programs and then poaching the best two other schools they can find to make up THE SUPER CONFERENCE OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL?  Hey, this worked wonderfully in England with its football/soccer structure about 30 years ago when it created THE PREMIER LEAGUE out of whole cloth.  I am not saying this is guaranteed to be the outcome for college football conferences, but it will not shock me to see this start to happen sometime before I shuffle off this mortal coil.  [Hat Tip: William Shakespeare]

Because I believe this is an inevitable future target for college football, I say:

  • Why not make this easier to effect when the time comes to do so?

So, now I make four suggestions about college football and college athletics:

  1. It is time to separate college football from all other collegiate sports – – the ones that do not pay their own way in 99% of the situations.  Let college football teams form and reform conferences to maximize revenue.
  2. Put all other intercollegiate sports into geographically sensible conferences such that the women’s softball team from West Virginia need not trek to Tempe, AZ to play Arizona State and so that the Oregon wrestling team need not wend its way to Rutgers for some competition.
  3. THEN, separate the football programs from the schools completely and have the football programs pay the universities for the rights to use the school affiliation which is a significant basis of its TV popularity.  Those revenues to the schools would be used to fund the non-revenue sports.
  4. Make recruiting rules and retention rules for college football that are different from the rules for recruiting and retention for fencing teams.  Create an oversight entity for college football only and leave the NCAA to try to oversee the rest of its athletics without the overwhelming presence of football programs and their boosters who can bully the NCAA into declaring that the moon is made of green cheese.  [Aside:  I have it on good authority from senior NASA officials that the moon is NOT made of green cheese.]

Next Saturday, college football will limp its way onto the sporting stage in the US demonstrating that there are not enough top-shelf games for the sport to offer to its viewing public.  Navy and Notre Dame will play in Dublin, Ireland.  That will be a huge economic boost for Dublin and Ireland, but it should not be of any major consequence regarding college football in 2023.  And that semi-interesting game next weekend is far and away the best and the most important game out of the 10 games that will happen on August 26th.  One game – – UMass/ New Mexico St. – – pairs two teams that are usually contending for my mythical SHOE Tournament ignominy in any given season.  In case you think I am kidding or exaggerating, here are three games scheduled to kick off at the same moment this weekend:

  • UMass at New Mexico St – 8 (44.5):  This is about a 2300-mile trip one way for the Minutemen.  To what end …?
  • Ohio at San Diego St. – 3 (49):  This is merely a 2000-mile trek one way for the Bobcats.
  • Fordham at Albany (no lines posted as of this morning).  This trip is only a bus ride for the Rams’ players/coaches, and it is also a game where no one outside the extended families of the coaches and players gives a rat’s ass.

These games all kick off at 7:00 PM EDT this Saturday.  Which one would you tune in to see?  The answer is NONE unless you are an alum, or you have a relative participating in the game.  But that is the best that college football can offer up for its “Opening Weekend” in 2023.

I love college football and it has nothing to do with football glory in my undergraduate days in college; I went to an Ivy League school; football games were dating opportunities and not sporting competitions involving a huge ego investment.  I see college football veering off onto a vector heading that will not benefit the sport nor the intuition(s) that put the logos on the helmets.  Change has been happening – – but it has not been happening either efficiently or effectively.  College football needs a leader to create a 20 or 24 team Super Conference which can offer up at least two if not four top-shelf games every weekend.  Maybe there is a relegation/promotion system involved here too which would make lots of other games that might be of only secondary interest much more compelling as an entertainment product.

Notwithstanding anything I said here, I am truly looking forward to the college football season in 2023.  Nevertheless, the product of college football as an entertainment vehicle on TV can be significantly improved as the years go by.

Finally, I feel today like the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament.  His fundamental prophesy was that judgment from God was coming to the Israelites because they were idolators and disobedient to the commands of God.  Jeremiah was right; the Israelites were sent into captivity/exile in Babylon after they did not heed Jeremiah’s words.  I doubt that college football will suffer exile or captivity, but it would benefit itself if it took the ideas presented here seriously and worked to implement them.

Bu don’t get me wrong I love sports………



6 thoughts on “College Football Can Be So Much Better”

  1. Part of the appeal of college football are the traditional rivalries between local teams. While the Ga Tech – Georgia game is no longer very competitive, the rivalry is still very important to both teams. I cannot see GT being among the teams in a “Premier” league of college football, but losing that rivalry would be a blow to the fans of both teams.

    1. Doug:

      If in a reorganized state of college football there was “exclusivisty” in terms of teams playing out of their league, then you are correct; Ga/Ga tech would go away. So, maybe the mavens who might organize such a reshuffling would build in two weekends of “InterConference Rivalry Games” just to keep the spark alive. I would not be offended…

  2. If you combined the name “Sports Curmudgeon” with the seeing prophet Jeremiah, what might that nom de guerre be? Can we expect to see that name in any future post?

    1. TenaciousP:

      You may be certain that I am not any kind of prophet and have no interest in even trying to amalgamate “Sports Curmudgeon” and Jeremiah” into anything at all.

      Will Jeremiah appear in future rants? Not likely, unless of course I go off on a tangent about bullfrogs…

    1. Gil:

      I have no solution(s) to the NIL mess. And just glancing at some of the various state laws that have been passed seeking to make sense of all that, I don’t think any legislators have a good vantage on a path out of the mess.

      Sorry …

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