I looked forward to college football this year with great desperation. A chance to return to normalcy with sweatpants, basements, chip dip, and gamenotes. But like the thirsty man in the desert, all I got was mirage. A fake. A replica of what used to be, but will never become again. College Football is broke, and I don’t see a way for it to ever come back. I used to think that if Michigan was good (my team of choice), that all my woes would be solved. I would love college football again, but I just realized, as I was writing this, Michigan hasn’t really been good for my entire adult life. Sure we have some awesome moments to hang out hats on, and if we WERE good, I would certainly like college football a lot more…. but I am starting to realize that isn’t the main contributor to me growing cold on college football.
Everything is better before it gets watered down and made for the masses. Call of Duty, Reddit, and every corner of the internet used to be a lot of fun when it was niche subset of a more popular genre. But then people realize, inevitably, that there is MONEY to be made. And instead we get the blandest version of bull crap that everyone from the ages 4 to 80 can swallow and people forget what quality used to be like. College football is becoming mini-NFL, and I already hate the NFL. I do not want a worse version of the NFL, I want the old college football back.
Coming off of the heels of the least watched National Championship game in a decade. (And one of the worst) I think now is a perfect time to reevaluate. Why does college football not get my juices flowing like it used to? What can be done to remedy the situation? Is there even a light at the end of the tunnel?
- The feeling of amateurism is completely gone. It used to feel like I was watching these “kids” play a game under the banner of one team. I think there is something special about that, it didn’t feel like professional games where it is obvious every step of the way that there is a contract being filled. It felt more like the Olympics. You know why the Olympics are so special? Watching people do stuff they are amazing at simply because they love it is captivating. Watch someone knit passionately, listen to someone tell their favorite story, watch this kid stack some cups for goodness sake. It’s fun, inject that feeling into my veins and give me more of it. It is clear NCAA football is now a farm system for the NFL, and the players, coaches, and teams don’t even pretend its anything else. Have your star playing sit out for the final game of the year to protect his NFL contract and suddenly you realize, this about money. We went from “there is no I in team” to “There are 7 0’s in a first round contract”. There was probably a time when this was the case and I just simply didn’t recognize it, but the in your face nature of it all makes it a lot harder to swallow. Ignorance is bliss. But those days aren’t coming back so I have a better solution. Pay the players. Instead of some schools doing it illegally and others playing by the rules, why don’t we just use the massive amount of money universities and college football is creating to pay the players who are making it. We can stop pretending it’s amateurism and instead lean in to what this has become instead. Finally, wondering how Oregon was suddenly amazing at football could actually be on the merit of the players instead of the heaviness of the bags.
- Parity is dead. This leads me to my second point. I’ve got bad news Tide, Nick Saban is not THAT much better of a coach then every other coach in the country. In fact, I think he has proven that if he doesn’t have the absolute best talent he is a pretty average coach.
There is tons to be said about him establishing a culture of excellence and demanding the best out of every position. I could go on-and-on about his adaptability. But the point is, There are at least 50 schools (bare minimum) that have the resources to be as good as Bama. A Dynasty should be like 3 playoff appearances and 2 titles in a decade. Not 6 titles in 12 years. The law of averages has been obliterated and reduced even the slightest illusion of parity. Making each season feel the same and the end conclusion inevitable. How do we fix this? Well the first point is a start. If everyone is getting paid the incentive to head south to play your football might only be for the weather.
3. The Final 4 playoff system is a disaster. I have at least 5 ways to fix it. The current system might be the absolute worst possible version we could have now. Firstly, parity would fix it. If we didn’t see the same teams every year the playoff would be more fun, plain and simple. But the creation of the playoff has delegitimized the rest of the bowls. If your only measure for success is making the playoff, or even harder, winning the playoff, then there is going to be 150 disappointed fan bases and only 1 happy one. That isn’t a very good way to create repeat customers. I will limit my ways to fix the end of the year football to 3.
Option A) The Big 6 bowl games should all be four team brackets each. I love this idea. That means 24 teams are getting into a chance to win a major bowl game. Keep rotating the National Championship bowl, but name the other 5 brackets after the 5 remaining major bowls. The Fiesta Bowl Team Bracket. The Sugar Bowl 4 team bracket. The Cotton Bowl 4 team bracket. (Is the Cotton bowl really one of the big 6?) I’ll take an example from this year: Florida vs Northwestern & USC vs Costal Carolina, winners have a shot to play each other to win the Sugar Bowl. Don’t tell me that isn’t 10x more exciting then The Cure Bowl which was an amazing game this year that nobody watched. Cross conference match-ups is what it is all about and bring 4 different conferences together to watch them duke it out would be must watch TV.
Option B) Restore the conference based matchups of the bowl games and pull the New Year 6 games out of the playoffs. If you are in the final 4 matchup you aren’t there to win a bowl game you are there to win a natty. I don’t care who made it, the Rose Bowl should be between the Big 10 Champ and the Pac 12 champ. If we sent out champ to the Final 4 then lets send our runner up.
Option C) Send 8 teams to the playoffs. It isn’t elegant. I don’t think its the right solution. But I do think it is better than 4 teams. More chances for the favorite to lose means less chances for the same result over and over again.
4. Restore Big Games. There was a time that I was tuning in for the big week 6 matchup between USC and Oregon. If more teams have a shot at being relevant by the end of the season, games in the regular season will matter more again. Now, I watch Michigan, get sad (usually), and don’t consume anything CFB related until next week. There was a time when Saturdays were RESERVED for college gameday, apple cider, a little over eating, and as much college football as I could possibly consume. Now, I can’t even strum up the interest to care about games played west of the Mississippi. (Sidebar: The commercials in-game are COMPLETELY out of hand, a college basketball game is 2 hours and is much more consumable- these 4 hour football games are insane. Ask me if I want to watch the extended cut of a LOTR movie RIGHT now and then tell me it’s 4 hours and I would laugh in your face. “Who one earth would want to watch one thing for four hours straight!?!?” And yet, here I am quoting Dr. Pepper commercials by the 2nd quarter. WE GET IT, FANSVILLE. BRING BACK LARRY CULPEPPER.) If we did a little better with scheduling, and made the end of the year target a little easier to hit, big games out of conference could matter again. (Sidebar #2: Your NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP KICKED OFF AT LIKE 8:40 ON A MONDAY- HOW IS THAT A GOOD DECISION?)
5. Finally, bring back the NCAA Video Game. I am CONVINCED this is an actual relevant point. Kids grow up playing the game, grow up loving the sport. It is certainly the case for people my age. Yet I know very few teenagers who care about college football anymore. We played the game, we loved the schools, and we developed an IMMENSE amount of knowledge by playing NCAA. Every conference, every player, every team, every tradition was etched into out brains through subliminal learning. Heck, I know almost every fight song thanks to NCAA game that got rid of licensed music and just went with the bands blasting away for background music. Of course all this would be possible if we just payed the players for their likeness. Just like Point 1, 2, 3, and 4. Maybe we should just pay the players.
Pay the players. Figure it out. I just want a few things in life and one of them is good college football (and good college football video games).