Enjoy it while it lasts.

Over at Georgia Sports Blog, Tyler looks at the mess the NFL is grappling with over Deflategate and wonders if there’s a lesson to be learned by college football.

He starts by noting that there’s a structural difference between the two that benefits the people in charge of college football.

The biggest thing protecting college athletics, particularly the cash cow that is college football, is the autonomy of the conferences. Will that become the reason the NCAA, with their ongoing publicity and discipline investigation failures, ceases to exists?

If you don’t think it’ll happen because of the money involved, remember, the NFL is the most profitable sports league in the world.

Eh, maybe.  True, the colleges don’t speak with one voice on every issue, as does the NFL, but let’s not take that too far.  The NCAA is an organization made up of schools and, as we’ve seen over the past few years, it has become increasingly sensitive to the wishes of its P5 membership, wishes that are mainly driven by – you guessed it – the almighty dollar.

It’s also reasonable to expect that college football would speak more with one voice if it possessed a key attribute the NFL enjoys, an antitrust exemption.  But that’s a story for another day.

Where I do think Tyler’s on to something is with his second point.

As Will Leitch put it: “People love football. But they hate the NFL.” I don’t buy that all people hate the NFL, but there is a substantial minority of football fans that are starting to treat pro football they way they treated MLB after the strike in 1994. They just stop caring.

That’s me, brother.  I was a huge baseball fan back in the day – season tickets, annual trips to Spring Training, trips to games in other cities, Rotisserie Baseball play – but I flipped a switch the day the news came out that the World Series was cancelled.  (I’m probably the only person in Atlanta who didn’t watch the ’95 World Series.)  And I’ve never looked back since.

Shutting down your premier event over a money squabble is a dramatic and effective way of proving to your fans that you really don’t give a shit about them.  And from my selfish standpoint, it was a message that I could no longer trust the owners (and the players, honestly) with my passion as a fan.  Once you cross that barrier, it’s hard to care again.  And I never have, even though I still appreciate the game of baseball from a historical perspective.

All of which gets me around to pondering the subject of what college football’s existential crisis might look like.  I know some of you see full-blown player compensation as being the trigger for that event, but it’s a little more complicated than that for me.  And that’s mainly because college football has made incremental changes to its nature for years now.  I’ve watched the shameless race over conference expansion/realignment and the expansion of conferences into the broadcast business and the havoc that’s wrecked on scheduling and traditional rivalries.  I’ve seen the way the people running the conferences are fumbling the issue of trying to balance the need to attract television audiences while keeping asses in the seats.  None of that individually is as bad as cancelling a season, but absorbed as a whole, it’s certainly enough to take a toll on my support.

Add to that the combination of arrogance and stupidity that marks both the NCAA and its member schools in allowing certain issues to fester in the courts instead of dealing with them in a proactive manner and you’ve got the perfect storm.  All of which is my way of saying that while I don’t know exactly what will be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, I have no doubt that there’s one coming.  There’s simply too much derp, greed and money to expect otherwise.

47 Comments

Filed under College Football

47 responses to “Enjoy it while it lasts.

  1. PTC DAWG

    Is he saying the NFL isn’t as popular as ever?

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  2. ApalachDawg

    A majority of the blame has to go to ESPN…

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    • JCDAWG83

      Actually, the majority of the blame goes to us, the fans, who keep sending in the donations, buying the stuff, paying for cable and generally going along with the changes.

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  3. Brandon

    I decided not to renew my season tickets this year. Got tired of spending 2,500 bucks for 2-3 good home games + Florida… (and having extra tix to Jax and hardly being able to get $20 a pop for them the last few years). I hate that I won’t be at the Bama game, but this year will be a test to see how badly I miss those tickets, and I don’t really see myself going back while I can generally buy the 2 tickets to each of the games I want to attend and still only spend a third of what I was dumping on the whole package.

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  4. I still love college football…but I hate the NFL. The season is too long…the 24 hour coverage all year long is just too much. The NFL has now put the cart way before the horse. The game happens around the commercials. Literally. There are so many commercials that it doesn’t hold my interest. This was gradually happening anyway–but the day I truly stopped caring was when I read a story about a blow out MNF game a few years ago. Apparently, the game went too fast and by the end, they hadn’t had enough commercial breaks. So the referee–whose job I thought was to officiate the football game, went to the coach of the winning team and explained the situation–asking that coach to call a time out. That coach, as he should have, refused. So the ref asks the coach of the losing team (Mangini/Browns maybe?), to call the time out. Which he did. It was then and there that I decided the NFL no longer deserved my attention. (Aside: Marshawn had me hooked during the “I am just here so I don’t get fined” episode–I loved that. Maybe if more folks start spiting the league I will watch again!)

    I am terrified that College Football will find a way to do the same with the ads. They are already ramping up the number of commercial breaks. How long ’til those breaks become more important than the game?

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    • Cojones

      As long as you watch them.

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    • Lamont, we’re already seeing TV timeouts before and after kickoffs. The stoppages are getting ridiculous. Why can’t they do something like they do with soccer with the changing advertisement in the corner? Keep the game moving and get everyone out in under 3 hours.

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      • Yup…I remember first noticing it when Fox had the BCS bowls a few years ago and shoehorned in more breaks. The next season Boom more breaks during every game.

        I love soccer. They never have commercial breaks–the ads are either, as you said in the corner, around the edge of the field itself, or on the jerseys. I wonder what a company pays for that spot on the jersey…

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        • 83dawg

          Since you asked…

          Man U. is getting $82 million a year from Chevy for the shirt logo. Chelsea will get $62 million from Yokohama. At the bottom this year, Norwich City will get $1.5 million from Aviva.

          14 of the 20 shirt sponsors are foreign (to the UK) companies.

          on top of that, last year, every team got $52.5 million from the general TV rights.

          after that, clubs also got ‘live tv money’ and prize money. For Man U that was $231 million for ‘live tv’ and $32 million in prize money (league finish).

          at the bottom last year, West Brom got the same $52.5 million from the TV deal, $11.5 million form live fees, and $15 million for somehow managing not to be relegated.

          note that NONE of these numbers include ticket sales, concessions, jerseys/scarves etc, or any of the secondary sponsors.

          also note that several sports books are primary sponsors, and more secondary sponsors.

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          • Nice–thanks! Interesting stuff. I would be wary of the Bookies sponsoring a team or the league itself. I wouldn’t want a college football team beholden to anyone–especially a bookie.

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        • ApalachDawg

          Chevrolet is the shirt sponsor for Manchester United. The price 47 million pounds or approx. $74 million. All shirts in the entire league = 191 million pounds or approx. $295 million

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  5. AusDawg85

    (sighhhh…) I truly miss baseball and basketball. Can’t go back to either, even when I try. Pro football is getting close. College football may carry me until my end years, but it may not be great. Thank goodness for golf.

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  6. Connor

    I’m with you Senator. I don’t think it’ll be one dramatic event that will cause me to stop caring about college football, too many of those have come and gone. It’s just at some point I won’t be able to maintain the cognitive dissonance required to enjoy a sport that is so fundamentally broken.One day I’ll wake up and be unable to ignore the ocean between what I pretend college football to be and what it actually is.

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    • JCDAWG83

      This is exactly how I feel. I think college football for most people, myself included, will end with a whimper, not a bang. The NFL lost my attention due to a number of things that mounted over the years both on and off the field. MLB lost me with the last strike. I’ve never cared about the NBA.

      One day, I’ll decide in the middle of watching a Georgia game on tv, that I’ve seen enough commercials interrupted with by few minutes of action provided by the mercenary, paid players who are no more UGA students than our cat, and I’ll turn it off and go do something else. The athletic programs and the networks have no feel for how close they are to making the college football game unbearable to attend or watch. It will not be a major, earth shaking event that causes the fans to abandon college football, it will be one little commercial or fee or rule change that will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

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  7. Charles

    “I’ve watched the shameless race over conference expansion/realignment and the expansion of conferences into the broadcast business and the havoc that’s wrecked on scheduling and traditional rivalries. I’ve seen the way the people running the conferences are fumbling the issue of trying to balance the need to attract television audiences while keeping asses in the seats. None of that individually is as bad as canceling a season, but absorbed as a whole, it’s certainly enough to take a toll on my support.”

    Agreed entirely. That encapsulates exactly how I feel.

    Greedy and shortsighted decisions won’t necessarily kill the sport. But, it will certainly ruin it. Which will… like… you know… prompt further greedy and shortsighted decisions.

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  8. Russ

    Senator, as much as I appreciate your analysis of all the changes going on in CFB, there’s a part of me that just wants to bury my head in the sand and ignore it. For things like CFB (which really isn’t important in the grand scheme of things), ignorance really can be bliss.

    I tried to watch the All-Star (baseball) game but gave up after 1 inning. I didn’t know or care about any of the players and it was finally slow, dull and boring to me. I only watch NFL at the end of the CFB season as I’m weaning myself off the game for the year. CFB is heading down that path, too, but I just want to ignore it. Like AusDawg, I just want the game to carry me another 40 years (I’m only 56 so I have a ways to go), and then they can do what they want with it. Either that, or I’ll become a HS FB fan.

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  9. Sh3rl0ck

    I am with you, Senator. For years, I used to watch the Braves game every night. Every single game. Then the strike happened; i have not watched a full game sense and only see any of it when it is on in a bar. In the spring of 1995, with no baseball on, I started watching hockey. I followed a couple of teams in the regular season and watched every playoff game. Then you had the lockout. I never got back in to watching it.

    The same thing has gradually happened with College Football. After my college days up to about 2008, I would watch CFB all day, from the beginning of College Gameday to the end of the 11:30 PM PAC-10 game. I would watch every bowl game. From there, it has been a linear regression to where, now, I record the Georgia game and fast-forward through the commercials. I generally also watch part of the game of Georgia’s next opponent.

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  10. Cousin Eddie

    Once they do away with the rivalry games (UGA and the team from the plains and the 3rd Sat in Oct and etc.) for some meaningless reason (more $ or some BS like that) to me will mean that the powers that be no longer care about the long time fans and only care about the short money. Not saying they don’t already but once they basically say “we don’t care,'” out loud I will care less and less for about three years then get more into HS football.

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    • MGW

      Its already happened and continues to happen in a big way. We just haven’t been hit that hard yet. It sucks playing Mizzou every year rather than a longer standing conference team from the West, but it could be a lot worse. Look at the Big 12.

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  11. MGW

    When it becomes too much like the NFL but with lesser athletes, all that will be left are the alumni and other people who grew up during the glory days. There will be no reason left for a new fan to pick up college football rather than the NFL unless they have real ties to the school.

    But everyone in charge right now will have retired by then so why wouldn’t they go for the quick money today?

    The best hope is that after that cycle runs its course and the money dries up, maybe conferences realign again but based on tight regional structures rather than media markets… for cost savings rather than profit maximization.

    Might not be able to watch 50 games a week on TV or internet at that point, but I’d take it.

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  12. With you about baseball Senator. When I was a kid I could tell you every Braves player and their stats every day of the baseball season. Now I would be hard pressed to tell you one player on the team. I felt like part of who I was was ripped away by that strike. Very sad. You’re right, you can now see CFB moving slowly and relentlessly toward the same end. It’s a fucked up world.

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  13. Bright Idea

    It amazes me how many “die-hard” Georgia fans never make any attempt to go to even one game. Some talk about when they used to go, some talk about recruiting only and some talk about their viewing parties. I still love the games but the trip, the cost, the delays and timeouts, the loud rap and the ignorance surrounding me makes it tougher. I still have a burning desire to be there when it happens but there is indeed lots of water being sprayed on my fire.

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    • JCDAWG83

      I don’t know that it was totally his fault, but it was during Adams’ tenure when the games started to become more corporate events than the alumni and fan friendly events they had always been. The never ending marketing, the increased costs, stricter and stricter rules imposed on the “little people” and their tailgating are adding up to really turn people off on going to games.

      The big screens were great in the beginning when they were used mostly for replays. Now, they are like being forced to sit in front of a loud television with an endless loop of marketing directed toward you. Someone in a position of authority decided it would be a good idea to make the game experience more like the NFL with the piped in music, they were wrong. The ribbon boards were great to start with when they showed the score, clock, down and distance, etc. Now, they are nothing more than skinny horizontal, electronic billboards.

      I still love going to the games, but now, it’s mostly to tailgate, see friends, see Athens, see the campus and the game is becoming less and less of the draw.

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    • Dog in Fla

      “all that will be left are the alumni and other people who grew up during the glory days.”

      Each among them shall be called a Donor and/or an Uncle Rico

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  14. Sides

    This is crazy talk. Is everyone here serious about the NFL? Will you be watching Pats vs Steelers tonight? I recorded and re-watched the spring game at least twice this summer, follow practices, watch NFL, play Fantasy, sometimes go the High school games, and follow recruiting. There is nothing in the sport better than NFL playoffs in terms of quality of the sport. I can’t think of what would make me want to stop SC football. It sure isn’t paying players and conference realignment. I would be pissed if we quit playing Clemson but I would still watch whoever else we played.

    I quit watching the Braves completely and now I don’t even watch the World Series. The reason is baseball games don’t matter. They play 162 games all summer and the strike helped people realize they had better things to do. The sport has continued to be mismanaged at the pro level. I do watch and follow SC baseball (and basketball) whenever I can. Baseball could be a great sport again.

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    • Russ

      Until you posted it, I wasn’t even sure the NFL was starting this weekend. Just can’t get excited about it.

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      • I don’t get excited about NFL but I watch. I will probably go to bed before the game is over unless a fantasy game matters. For everyone here to act like money and special interests are killing the game is just wrong. Is the SEC better with sc, ark, tam, and mizzou? By all measurables it is.

        Y’all have spent 2 days arguing about a QB’s throwing motion and now you act like the sport is dying. I didn’t play and my kids won’t play but it is now America’s sport. Just wait until the NFL goes worldwide.

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        • garageflowers

          It’s killing the game for me. When you can go 10-6 ( just North of 60% ) and win the Super Bowl, NFL games don’t matter. So UGA is 5-5. We have a chance… blech. But, I remember the days when there were only two games on tv on a weekend, before regional coverage. And I’m only 45. I don’t even watch the Super Bowl anymore.

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        • AusDawg85

          You’re young. Keep that enthusiasm. But you list some things that are part of your generation that could be the thing that eventually breaks your faith too. First, this Fantasy stuff will lead to a scandal…”bet” on it. And you note your kids won’t play football. As that becomes a bigger trend, the game will suffer. You have knowledge, us older guys have wisdom. When you start to grasp the difference, you’ll get it too. Until then, enjoy it.

          P.S. Gamecocks suck. 😉

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    • JCDAWG83

      I didn’t know there was an NFL game on tonight if that tells you anything.

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      • Dog in Fla

        Tune in. At half-time, in addition to dancing, there will a special live presentation in which Roger calibrates the balls for proper inflation

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  15. Brandon

    IMO the only thing that has saved the ass of the NFL, its the growing popularity of fantasy football. Its the only reason I watch it.

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  16. Macon Dawg

    Another major reason the sport of football is about to experience a significant decline is that the general public is becoming more and more health conscious. All you have to do is look at the youth participation numbers to see the effect this consciousness is having (hint: the numbers are way down).

    And it’s not just because of concussions either (I won’t deny that’s a large part of it). People are getting wise to the overall toll the sport takes on the body and the limitations the resulting injuries place on people as they go through life (sometimes a high school or college injury may not cause you real problems until you’re much, much older).

    Can you get hurt playing other sports? Sure, absolutely. Is the risk of injury higher in those than football? No, not even close. Is the risk of serious injury higher in those than football. No, not even close.

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  17. Trbodawg

    The canary in the CFB coal mine for me is this blog. When the Senator closes up shop, I probably will too.

    On a happier note, My g/f and I are flying to Nashville tomorrow. I got 50yrd line seats for $60 each on StubHub and we’re really looking forward to my first visit to Nashville in 25+ years. We had a really good visit to Columbia,MO last year and we’re hoping for the same results.

    Perhaps we’ll see some GTPers there? We’ll be the ones in the red shirts 🙂

    PS – She’s signed up for the Fabris Pool under the name “Wisky Sour” (Wisconsin grad) What do y’all think the bet should be for the season?

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  18. W Cobb Dawg

    Its been an incremental change for me. Stopped regularly attending games back in the late 90’s. The ever-changing start times combined with tailgate restrictions and the long drive made my appearance too cumbersome.

    And I’m probably a long way from there right now, but costs for espn/sec channel together with a watered down schedule can eventually make watching on TV too big a hassle.

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  19. doofusdawg

    Very thoughtful piece… and thank God for incrementalism.

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  20. And this is the point where I’m totally conflicted when it comes to paying players because paying players is only going to expedite the whole process of becoming like the NFL and running me off.

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