The question that is burning in my mind is.......has college football peaked? I'm not talking about the performance of the players on the field, but rather the popularity and passion of the fans. Throughout the last 2 decades, it's seemed like college football has gotten bigger every year, and even when the Dawgs have had down years, I've still enjoyed the heck out of every season as a whole. If you look at the money that ABC/ESPN and Fox are throwing at the conferences right now, it's clear that they perceive interest in the sport to be at an all time high. But how much longer can this go on with all the scandals and bad press going on? I'm apparently not the only one who has had this rattling around in my head recently:
- The great Paul Westerdawg, of whom the 3 of us contributors here are huge fans, says that the NCAA needs its own version of Frank Abagnale, Jr.
- Ivan Maisel says things aren't as bad as they were in the SMU days, but acknowledges that the reputation of the game is suffering.
- Even Mark Emmert says things are at a "crossroads".
I have always been a passionate football fan, literally ever since I can remember (I have a post scheduled to go up tomorrow that will explore that a little more fully). And like I mentioned above, even when the Dawgs are down, I have always enjoyed every season as a whole. But last year was very different......I can remember emailing with LC, SimpleMan, and regular commenter here Reeder3:16 right after the BCS title game about how glad I was for the season to be over. For the first time ever, I didn't even make it through the title game, I fell asleep in the middle of the third quarter, and only woke up at the very end. It didn't feel like a coronation to a great run by 2 excellent teams, it felt more like a mercy killing for that cess-pool of a season. And that's not just a shot at the two teams that were playing in the title game, though they certainly contributed heavily to the feeling. But it's a shot at Southern Cal, a shot at what was at that point the new revelations about Ohio State, a shot at UNC and their lengthy list of suspensions........and yes, a shot at the AJ Green jersey-gate saga. The season started badly with scandals, got worse over time, and even after the season the pace hasn't slowed at all. If even half of the rumors going around right now are true about schools that are currently being investigated, then what we've seen so far is only the tip of iceberg.
I mentioned earlier the money that TV is throwing at the schools and conferences right now. Add in the money that the apparel companies throw in, wealthy boosters, and shady agents, and we're talking about exorbitant sums of money. Regardless of the organization, time has proven over and over that when money and success are plentiful, complacency and/or corruption aren't far behind. When Mike Slive took over as the SEC commissioner, he was taking over a conference that had taken a pretty good beating for out of control athletic departments. He came in wielding a big stick, and put standards in place to make sure that the conference became probation-free. Contrast that with some of his recent decisions since the SEC has started winning the national title year after year, and it seems like the focus has become more on continuing that streak than enforcing the rules. As they say though, you reap what you sow, and I'm afraid the SEC is going to be taking some pretty heavy blows in the next year or so.
Speaking at least for myself, I think the 2011 season will be a real litmus test for my passion for the game. I always look forward to the start of the season, but I think I'm looking forward to it for a different reason this year. For me, it's to see how much I enjoy it all again. Was last season just a blip, or the beginning of a trend? I guess I'll know on Jan 9th, 2012, if I'm asleep before it all ends.