College football is going through several major changes at once.
And arguably they are not for the better.
Now the sport will not be the same after one earth-shattering announcement.
College football took another step toward becoming NFL-lite.
NIL (name, image, and likeness) deals have allowed players to get paid out in the open instead of under the table, and they have also been allowed to transfer in between schools without sitting out a year, requesting a hardship waiver, or enrolling in a graduate school program.
And another major development is accelerating: radical realignment.
The traditional and regional ties and rivalries are being destroyed by conferences raiding each other in order to secure better television contracts.
Texas and Oklahoma announced they would be joining the SEC, turning it into a super-conference and leaving the Big XII in limbo.
And now the Big Ten just snatched West Coast blue bloods USC and UCLA, giving the conference the top four television markets: New York (Rutgers), Los Angeles, Chicago (Northwestern), and Philadelphia (Penn St).
From The Athletic:
“USC and UCLA will leave the Pac-12 Conference for the Big Ten in 2024 at the conclusion of the Pac-12’s existing media rights agreement…Multiple sources told The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman that the two Pac-12 schools were the ones to reach out to the Big Ten about a move…The Big Ten is currently in negotiations over its next media rights deal. Its existing deals with ESPN and Fox run through the next academic year, 2022-23.”
The television contracts have gotten so lucrative, schools cannot afford to miss out on the guaranteed paydays from conference tie-ins.
Former LSU chancellor Michael Martin joked in 2011, “I think we could ultimately end up with two conferences: one called ESPN and one called FOX.”
LSU chancellor Michael Martin: "I think we could ultimately end up with two conferences: one called ESPN and one called FOX." Laughter.
— Nathan Fenno (@nathanfenno) October 24, 2011
It turns out that Martin was onto something.
Teams that do not join a super-conference could find themselves left out in the cold.
Oregon and Washington reportedly tried to join the Big Ten as well, but the conference said they were holding off on additional expansion.
With the Big XII and the PAC 12 both having been gutted, the ACC could be next.
The conference is locked into a bad television deal for the next decade-plus, so schools like Clemson, Miami, Florida, North Carolina, and Duke could be looking to make a move and hasten the demolition of the college football of old.
The Bowl system is essentially on its last legs as the playoffs will assuredly expand, which will diminish the importance of the regular season.
In the past, if teams lost a game, it could take them out of the national championship hunt.
Teams could still play for conference titles and a good bowl game, but the bowls don’t mean what they once did and will mean even less in the future.
College football has quickly turned into an NFL minor league.
The pageantry and traditional rivals are fading quickly, just like the pretense of amateur athletics.