Super Conferences- BCS Amok

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College Football Ends with Super Conferences

Where did I miss the switch from athletes competing and earning an advanced degrees to major entertainment package sources? That’s where we are. No longer are athletes interested in going to a college or university for higher education. The primary focus of higher education has become profit, not education. So, one should not focus all the ire on athletes, they’re just kids. Or, they should be, some are in their mid-20s, which seems more like professional age.

Let’s move to the first point of contention- Super conferences. With the expansion of the Big 8 to the Big 12, we saw the beginning. Then came the raid on the Big 12 with Nebraska moving to the Big 10 (which actually has 12 members with the addition of Penn State and Nebraska.) Penn State fits geographically into the Big 10, Nebraska’s a stretch. Along with Big 10 expansion we saw Colorado bolt for the Pac 10 (which now has 12 also adding Utah).

Somewhere in the process of building the Longhorn television network, panties got all in a bunch, with Texas A&M. Call it in-state rivalry. Call it jealousy, A&M was a agricultural and mining school originally, and the poor country cousin to Austin’s UT. Regardless of the reason, A&M has decided to bolt the Big 12 (which with the departure of Colorado & Nebraska made it the Big 10). A&M will be going to the Southeaster Conference which has a multitude of Southeastern schools divided into two division east & west to accommodate television schedules.(And reduce conference powers eliminating each other from Bowls.)

Conferences made sense back when they were based on geography. Sure some conferences did not get much television time, which meant supporters had to pony up the extra money for the athletic programs. That might have been a problem for some schools, while other large universities seemed capable of attracting the best athletes thanks to “booster clubs.” Along the line from off the books athletic financial aide came the rise of college television contracts and Title IX.

One cannot blame Title IX for this mess. But, it was a contributor to the financial difficulties of major college football programs. One can argue the merits of big time college athletics. I, for one, find it silly. My trips to the stadium on Saturday at Mizzou as a freshman was not based on the national prominence of my school. Saturday football at Mizzou was an event which needed no hype. Today, I see an expanse of gold and black in the stadium and many happy young people, so things must not have changed much.

Athletes I knew had tutoring, the infamous summer jobs, spent extra time traveling to games. At that time university level study was difficult. College athletes probably needed a little help during the season to keep up. I never met a truly stupid athlete in my time in college. Today, based on some television interviews, I wonder. Today, I wonder if the people struggling to make the pros understand the tool their sacrifice will pay on their body in the years after the sport?

Call me crazy, but, I believe major college athletics faces a much bigger problem than which conference to join. What lies just over the hill will not be a new, larger television contract, but, a contraction of higher education. With less bodies filling those chairs things get difficult for higher education. Jobs once requiring a college education are fading faster than a fourth quarter lead facing a number one team. That’s the problem, it’s all about jobs.

With higher education going north of $40k, few people can really afford a university degree. States will be cutting back on perks to athletic programs. Title IX figures in here. As universities must provide equal sponsorships, more cuts will be across the board. Eventually, college sports will either turn pro or return to amateur status. I vote for the later. If young people want to play high level sport on television, let them turn professional.

Across the globe young men work to become professional footballers (soccer). The good ones are signed to contracts before age 16. The big clubs feed them, educate them, and train them. The best rise to the professional ranks, the lesser either quit or play semi pro. Today, the national football league feeds off the collegiate farm system. Time for the pros to raise their own talent. Let the college athletes return to amateur status and college sports return to regional rivalries. Globalization isn’t working.

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