When it comes to college football, I am the quintessential “casual fan.” I don’t usually watch any games on television. I read about the games in the newspaper (and enjoy doing so), and have a sincere interest in which teams are doing well. (I was very glad that Georgia won the national championship last year–a newcomer among the top teams was a refreshing change.)
Until my Saturday work situation changed a few years ago, I attended a small college football game once a year for about five years in a row–enjoying those outings very much, especially since I went to the games with a friend. I used to watch games on television, but have stopped doing that in recent years.
All this is by way of preface. I don’t have a lot of emotion tied up with college football, but I am glad the games are played, and bear the sport no ill will. Please take what I say with an industrial-sized grain of salt. I am just a casual fan.
But still I manage to have opinions, and since I picked college football for my topic today, I had better express those opinions here or the blog post would have to end now. That would be way too short.
You will not be shocked to hear that sports have sort of become an idol for many Americans. As our interest in the Christian religion has died out, something has to replace that interest. Sports are one replacement for God. I say this as one who has been a sports fan my entire life, and fully expect to be a sports fan until I croak. I love sports. But when we make too much of sports, we are getting off track. Sports, like many things good in themselves, are a fine servant but a poor master.
College football can become too important to us. It has become so for many people.
Part of our problem is that university public education even exists. Stop taking taxpayer money to finance public universities, and eventually the tail would stop wagging the dog–or at least not wag the dog as much as it currently does. End university public education, and good things will happen gradually. (Of course the same is true of high school public education. End it. Good things will happen.)
It would really help if we all would begin to admit to ourselves that college is a pretty rotten place for most young people. It is expensive, and is a hotbed for left-wing propaganda. I continue to be amazed at how readily Christian parents send their children to college. But, on the bright side, they can attend football games when they’re at Anti-Christ State U.
There are lots of football bowl games these days. As late as 1997, there were 20 football bowl games at the end of a season. So 40 of the best teams were rewarded for their good-to-great season, by playing in a bowl game.
Currently, however, there are about 40 bowl games in a season. That means 80 teams are in bowls. Being in a bowl no longer necessarily means you had a good-to-great season. Now mediocre can be good enough. Teams are “bowl eligible” when they win six games–six out of 12. A .500 record is good enough. In some cases, teams with less than a .500 record go to a bowl! A 5-7 record becomes good enough!
I want to tread carefully here. I don’t want to be appointed the Bowl Czar, telling college football how many bowls they can have. If college football wants to have 40 bowls, or 60 bowls, I am willing to simply look on in befuddlement, without any desire to tell them what they must do. I am a fan of the free market. These things sort themselves out, in a free market. If there is a market for 60 (or 80) bowl games, so be it. My point, as a casual fan, is that for me 40 bowls seems to devalue what it means to go to a bowl. I would prefer there were closer to 20 or 25 bowls. But that is the opinion of a dilettante looking on from a distance. I really don’t want to tell other people how many bowls there must be.
One of the items on my bucket list is to attend a college football bowl game. I have never come close to doing so, but I still want to get there. If/when I make it, I hope it will not be a game between two 6-6 teams, or between a 6-6 team and a 5-7 team. But if it is a bowl with two teams with lackluster records, I will still be happy to be there. I will have finally made it.
Division I college football teams play a lot of games. A typical team plays 12 regular season games. A bowl game, when it happens, ups the number to 13. A handful of teams play even more games. For example, the division champions of many conferences meet each other for a conference championship game. That is a 13th game. Then both will go on to a bowl game, which is a 14th game. Two teams play 15 games in a season–the two that meet for the national championship.
I can remember when a Division I football team played 10 regular season games. If a team made a bowl, that was an 11th game.
For my personal taste–again, I really, really don’t want to be any kind of football czar–10 regular season games was enough. An 11th game if you make a bowl, maybe a 12th game for the two teams meeting for the national championship; that’s enough for me.
I wonder–what would the players prefer? Ten regular season games, or 12? If they played only 10 regular season games, maybe that would keep their bodies fresher, would reduce the chance of injury, and would give them more off days in the season (or a season a week or two shorter). But maybe they like playing 12 games, with a chance for 13 to 15. I wish someone would ask them.
I think some small colleges still play only a 10-game schedule–unless they make the small college playoffs. Ten games seems like enough to me–but again, that is simply the musings of a casual fan.
I do remember that the most memorable football season in Indiana University history, 1967, featured 10 regular season games and one bowl game (in the new year) for a total of 11 games. It didn’t feel like we were being cheated by playing only 10 regular season games. I. U. lost the bowl game, and finished 9-2. Even casual fans remember that season with fondness.
There are two things that I really like about the current college football set-up. First, permitting players to enter a “transfer portal” which permits them to leave their current team and join another without having to sit out a season, is a step in the right direction. It gives players a degree of control of their lives, which should have been there before but wasn’t. Why should a player be stuck on one team, when he feels he might be able to flourish better at a different school?
But my favorite thing about the current college football scene, is the recent development of rules that permit players to make money selling their name, image, and likeness. Often abbreviated as NIL. Under these rules, players are able to earn money while still in college.
How much money? Well, it varies from individual to individual, of course. I read where three famous college football players were likely to earn these amounts: $390,000.00, $440,000.00, and $700,000.00. Now that is serious money! Others, less popular and famous, will earn much less. A figure of 5K to 30K for these players was bruited about in the article I read. Still, even $5,000.00 is significant money for most of us.
Again, let’s trust the free market. If a player can earn $700,000.00 or more, good for him. If he can earn $116.42, good for him. If $116.42 seems like a really small amount to you, fine, I agree. Then you won’t mind sending me a check for that amount. I promise I won’t sneer at it.
The point it, why shouldn’t players be able to benefit from their skill and fame? College football coaches earn millions of dollars, their assistant coaches earn serious bucks, the university makes money off the football program. The players are finally–belatedly, but better late than never–getting a cut of the loot. That is fair. Most college athletes, even in the most popular sports, will probably earn very little from NIL income, but even a small amount of money will be helpful. A total income of $1,040.00 for a year, adds up to $20.00 a week. That is a nice weekly bonus for any college student; it will help him buy a pizza or attend a movie.
And when I say him, him definitely includes her. Among the top twenty-one college athletes, all sports, with NIL earning potential, are eight women! You go, girl!
I enjoy college football, and hope it continues. End public education, cut the regular season to 10 games, reduce the number of bowl games, and I will enjoy it even more. But ignore me completely, and I will still enjoy the sport. Casually.