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College Football’s Renaissance – Part 1

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Some believe you can never have too much of a good thing. Well, college football is about to test that theory to the max. Throughout the previous decade of the sport, college football has exploded in nearly every respect. In fact, one could argue that the sport has already reached its highest peak, but there are plenty of signs to suggest that there are new heights just over the horizon.

The initial jolt came by way of the now reviled BCS (Bowl Championship Series). The BCS utilized a formula that incorporated multiple stats and the results of human polls to establish and rank every team in the nation. To a large extent (at least at the time) the guesswork was eliminated. In its inception it was a significantly unifying force in the college football world. It wasn’t exactly a playoff, but it was a step in that direction.

What resulted was a much more interesting product to the consumer. The outcome of games was magnified ten-fold and there was a significantly higher emphasis placed on teams’ records – specifically the need and desire to go undefeated. All of this newfound drama began to transform the game from something that appealed mostly to die-hard fans to a mainstream platform that was easily taken to by almost anyone.

Intrigue, whether it was genuine or inflated by media outlets (ESPN, Fox Sports, etc.), now surrounded everything. This shift in coverage and presentation of the sport is what has really laid the groundwork for what lies ahead.

If college football fans (as a large group) have proven anything over the last decade, it is that they want to be connected to the game as much as possible. By nature, college football fans represent an extremely passionate swath of society and this has allowed the sport to expand in many lucrative and unique ways. Despite the radical evolution of social media over the last several years, television continues to be at the forefront.

College Gameday Crew 

With the added backdrop of the Bowl Championship Series, television networks were able to take an already viable commodity and essentially create their very own ‘Golden Goose’ – the games were more interesting than before, there was more at stake than ever before, more and more people were becoming interested than ever before and no matter where college football was (or still is) people could not get enough it. Programs like ESPN’s College Gameday soared in popularity and transcended the traditional college football audience.  

All of this excitement created an unprecedented rush to lock up broadcasting rights by the major networks (an area that has come to be dominated by ESPN). Marquee matchups during the season have become hot commodities and the bowl season (outside of the BCS bowls) has become a month-long marathon of sorts. In creating more television space for more football games, the idea arose for conferences to have their own dedicated network to air football and other sports for its member institutions. The University of Texas has taken the theme one step further by having its very own (Longhorn Network).

College football now finds itself at a precarious crossroads. After years of battling criticism from fans and analysts alike, the BCS has been phased out. Its predecessor, The College Football Playoff, will take its place beginning in the 2014 season. This is arguably a dream come true, but it does not come without concerns. Computer rankings will be completely eliminated and instead, the 4 teams being awarded semi-final berths in the playoff will be selected by a committee. 

3 Comments

  1. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

  2. KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

    Television rights, and the dollars they bring to universities, have really undermined the basic appeal of college football for older fans. I have to make a distinction between older fans and newer fans because newer fans may not have an interest in old rivalry games.

    Of course, the SEC has evolved since its inception. That is the nature of things. But some of the charm has been lost. When rivalry games are no longer possible because of scheduling concerns, we have to ask, “What is the nature of college football and for this conference specifically?”

    The move by our conference to expand was driven by a concern over television rights moreso than for the integrity of the SEC, or any other reason. Lord knows 14 teams has complicated scheduling. Twelve teams seemed ideal. Game times are now driven almost entirely by television scheduling. The talk of going to nine conference games is partially driven by strength of schedule arguments to keep the SEC free from complaints about cupcake games. All this to remain competitive for a fleeting shot at the national title game.

    Who will be on the selection committee? What are the criteria to determine which teams are worthy?

  3. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    ……Multiple independent bowl games, the Bowl Alliance, the BCS, and now the playoff; there’s always going to be arguments about who’s included and who’s not. Heck, basketball has a 64+ team field in the tourney, and folks still crab that this or that team got in, and theirs didn’t.

    ……This new football selection committee will sooner or later make an unpopular choice, there will be outcry, and tweaks. They were constantly tweaking the BCS selection process, throughout its history.

    …..I’ll take an imperfect championship game, or playoff over the old bowl tie-ins. 1983 still sticks in my craw because Auburn was contractually bound to the Sugar Bowl, and couldn’t play any of the top five. Still, we said a little prayer for Al Del Greco, he kicked it through, and and we beat Michigan 9-7. Then top-ranked Nebraska lost, 2nd ranked Texas lost, and instead of 3rd ranked Auburn moving up, voters vaulted 5th ranked Miami up to the top spot. Miami was 1-1-1 against bowl teams that year. Auburn BEAT 9 bowl teams!

    …..So, progress has been that we’re more likely to see championships won on the field, and that’s great. Will it be perfect? No.

    …..College football television has been a growth industry for the past 30 years, since a chunk of the big boys in the NCAA formed the CFA, and started selling their own TV rights. Prior to that, the NCAA controlled all TV, and doled out two or three games each Saturday, and those were the only games on TV.

    …..Now, one can get up at 9:00 AM for Gameday, and watch live college football for around 15 hours. When I was a kid, the only time that was even close to possible was New Year’s weekend. I can’t go the marathon distance every Saturday, but I do like to pull it off once or twice a season!

    …..The sad truth is that rivalries have always come and gone. Teams play each other every year for a while, then conditions change, and the series gets stopped. That has happened throughout college football history. I hated seeing the Georgia Tech series with Auburn get stopped. We used to play Kentucky every year when I was a kid. And Tennessee. Conditions changed.

    ……Sometimes, you pick up new rivalries. Before the SEC went to divisions, Auburn had not played LSU much at all, and had only played Arkansas once all time. I believe it was said after Auburn beat LSU in Baton Rouge 34-10 in 1993, that Auburn had not won there since Hitler was chancellor of Germany. Now, after more than 20 years of back and forth results, both games are eagerly-awaited outings.