College Football’s Renaissance – Part 1
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.
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.