Thursday, August 20, 2009

Market Like a Champion Today

They say that the college football season is around the corner. My friends, I beg to differ. The season has already begun. It has little or nothing to do with the play on the field. The college football marketing machine has kicked into full gear. College football, in my mind, is the only sport that determines a champion, not based on play on the field, but on the amount merchandise and ad time you sell. I am convinced now more than ever that the fix is in. If your school doesn't have the right TV contract or sell the most video games, your team will have little, if any chance at all, for ever playing for a national title.

The reality of college football does not match the marketing of what actually is happening on the playing field. Let's take a look at the top ten from this year's pre-season USA Today Coaches poll:

  1. Florida

  2. Texas

  3. Oklahoma

  4. USC

  5. Alabama

  6. Ohio State

  7. Virginia Tech

  8. Penn State

  9. LSU

  10. Ole Miss

What are the common denominators of these teams? For the most part, they are the so called "traditional powers". They all come from conferences with major television contracts. They all come from conferences with BCS automatic births and most are in the top 25 of merchandise sales per the Collegiate Licensing Company. Not a down has been played and we already have our first poll that helps determine the national title. Why do I find it odd, a team like Utah that went undefeated last year, and beat the mighty SEC champ Alabama, is not in the top ten? Why do I find it odd that not one team outside of the BCS is even in the top 15? It seems to me that these teams outside the "elite" programs are starting behind the proverbial eight ball before a down is ever played.

If you read, watch or listen to your ESPN's, your Fox sports, et al, you are only hearing about these so called "elite" programs and conferences. Why do I find it interesting that 4 out of the last 5 episodes of ESPN's College Football Live program dedicated the first segments of these shows to the SEC? It wouldn't have anything to do with that fat new TV contract that ESPN signed with the SEC? Why do I find it odd that the same show has yet to do a segment on non-BCS teams? It wouldn't have anything to do with the ESPN/ABC contract with the BCS, now would it? You see, they will get pimped because ESPN needs a return on its investment, in the way of ad dollars. If you think I'm a conspiracy theorist, so be it. I ask you then to google Trev Alberts who once worked for ESPN. In a nutshell he called them out for making him pimp certain conferences and teams due to TV contracts. When he was fired, he was called a "disgruntled" ex-employee.

In a recent column ESPN's Mark Schlabach began comparing the ACC to some of the other so called power conferences. He said that they were truly elite because of the amount of NFL draft picks that it has had over the last few years. I now give you their record in the BCS over the history of the BCS, 2-9. My Big East is at least 6-5 and winners of 3 out of the last 4, yet some in the media keep on referring to it as the "Big Least", go figure. Calling a league "elite" because of draft picks is like saying they are number one in potential. Almost doesn't cut it. In the immortal words of the great Gorilla Monsoon, "Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades". Again ABC needs justify their contract with the ACC. They are coming nowhere near selling out their conference championship. The league is averaging something like 40,000 for the game and the TV ratings have been less than stellar. Now ESPN puts out this article, trying to say otherwise. I throw the bullshit card.

Ask Bobby Bowden what the biggest change in the game is and he will tell you, quite simply, the 85 man scholarship limit rule. The days of the same power programs winning year in and year out, are over. Back in the day, teams like Nebraska and Alabama would have 200-300 guys on scholarship. They soaked up all the talent. Now you throw in this rule and the talent level gets dispersed. There are no more "elite" teams. We are seeing crazy upsets every year. Upstart programs are changing the landscape of college football, yet the schleps in the media keep on pimping the power teams they knew from their childhood. When was the last time Notre Dame was relevant? When was the last time, we had a national champion where we had no controversy at the end? It was all a generation ago. Times have changed. It's time the windbags wake up.

The other big change is the Internet. Up until recently, you rarely heard about recruiting. Now you know everything from the guy's forty time to his favorite class in school. Sites like and make seventeen and eighteen year old kids stars before they ever set foot on campus. It goes to their heads, so often times, they go to a so called lesser program, where they can play right away and make headlines from the start. If you think I'm crazy, look around the country at the amount of freshmen that are starting even at the so called, "elite" schools. Hell, a generation ago, these kids would have been on freshmen teams.

I guess for most, change is hard. We all feel comfortable in what we were raised on. So it makes some sense for the jock sniffers to pimp these elite programs, because that is what they knew. The reality of what is happening on the field is vastly different. When your perceptions are set, it is hard to alter that. It will take time, but I have faith, well maybe, that we will see change, just not until my 16 month old Devon takes his first snaps in the Blue and Gold. Until then, in the immortal words of Mel Brooks in Spaceballs when they asked his character Yogurt what he did for a living and the answer was, "Merchandising!"

May the Shwartz be with you...

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