College football losing luster

College football is dead. Well, at least what made it special is.

I’ll just get this out of the way first. I’m a Michigan fan. Been one my whole life, and have suffered nearly every football season because of it.

This is arguably the best time to be a Michigan fan in a long time. It’s one of the best, if not the best Michigan team I’ve seen in my time watching sports.

And yet, I don’t really care. My interest in college football is at an all-time low. I still watch almost every game, and know what’s going on, but it’s just not the same.

I’m going to try and avoid this turning into me waxing poetic about my childhood, but can we all agree college football was way better 20 years ago?

It was still big and still the dominant cultural force on Saturdays, but I don’t know, everything felt more authentic. Not everything was completely decided by TV network executives, and conference games were between schools that had some sort of history and were a reasonable distance from each other.

Traditions are being eschewed in favor of nonsensical conference realignment solely to acquire bigger TV markets.

The Apple Cup (Washington v. Washington State) and the formerly-named Civil War (Oregon v. Oregon State) are all but dead. Colorado and Nebraska, my favorite of the old Black Friday tilts, has been reduced to a handful of games every decade.

But don’t worry, it’s been replaced with new rivalries that are just as exciting.

Rutgers against USC? Now that’s what college football is really about.

And with how college football is organized now, the only chance you have of having a meaningful postseason is to join one of the new megaconferences, with rare exceptions. But if you aren’t bringing a new and good TV market to the table? Tough. Enjoy the Mountain West or another Group of 5 league.

To liken it to professional sports, it’s as if the only NBA teams that were allowed to make the playoffs every year were the Lakers, Celtics, Knicks, and Bulls.

But in the college football world of the near future, it’s pretty close. Just recently on the big college football pregame show, those same Washington State and Oregon State teams played. Despite being ranked No. 21 and No. 14 at the time, it was openly dismissed as a “Who cares?” game.

And while the opinions of TV talking heads often should be dismissed from the moment they’re spoken into the world, it usually becomes the prevailing narrative.

I know it’s popular to rip on NIL, and blame that for all the issues of college football, but it’s far from the issue people like Dabo Swinney make it out to be. I know a lot of people don’t like it because it’s “killed amateurism in college sports,” but much like the Wizard of Oz, one look behind the curtain, and you’d see all the claims of amateurism are just a facade.

I’d argue that once college football became this big money product, amateurism went out the window. But since the players weren’t being paid a salary, just through a series of loopholes instead, it could still be considered an “amateur” sport.

I’m fully on board for players getting paid. Without them, there’s no game. I don’t know about you, but watching a bunch of university presidents, football coaches, and TV executives running around playing on Saturdays sounds way less enjoyable than the elite athletes we see now.

They deserve a piece of the increasingly large pie.

And I don’t think the current NIL and transfer portal rules are perfect, don’t get me wrong. It’s led to power concentrated in a small handful of teams, and taken a nuke to parity. But I do think the players who risk their bodies have just as much right to improve their own personal situation as you or I do. Or the coaches of those same programs for that matter.

Even if this new era of player agency was as bad as some of the pearl clutches made it out to be, it doesn’t even compare in the slightest to the damage the TV executives have done.

Ruining rivalries through endless conference realignment, handpicking the postseason and blaming those caught in the crossfire at every turn.

It’s just lame.



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