It's All About Football
Yeah, I said it. I guess that makes me somehow un-American, right? I mean, football is the national pastime at this point, no doubt. But I don't care. I absolutely abhor what football -- and America's crazed obsession with it -- is doing not only to the Big East Conference but to numerous other entities as well.
I don't know exactly when football became America's favorite sport -- it may have been 25, 30 years ago, for all I know. I probably didn't notice because I've lived my whole life in New England, where college football is no big whoop and the Red Sox have always been more popular than the Patriots.
But football is king now, no doubt. Just look what it's doing not only to the Big East but the entire college sports landscape. Schools are desperate for the big money football can rake in for a program, and fearful of being left behind in a conference like the Big East, where some of the best programs don't play football. Boston College felt this way six years ago; Syracuse and Pitt joined the fray on Sunday. UConn and Rutgers could be next ...
They say four, 16-team megaconferences are in our not-too-distant future. Great. Wonderful, tradition-rich, organic conferences like the Big East get torn asunder so we can get these geographically-incorrect monoliths where money means everything and basketball rivalries nothing. (Yes, I know the Big East raided Conference USA six years ago, after being raided itself. There's plenty of guilt to go around).
The greed for football money in college sports isn't all that different than what's going on with the NFL and ESPN right now. How's that, you ask? Well, ESPN -- like university presidents and athletic directors -- loves itself some football, too. Just look at the recent eight-year, $15.2 billion extension of its NFL rights fees ESPN just inked. Already betrothed to the NFL with its Monday Night Football rights, the network has even more reason to continuously shove the NFL down our throats.
For a variety of reasons, football would have surpassed baseball as the national pastime even without ESPN's considerable help. But ESPN has certainly sped up the process. The network has a vested interest -- 15.2 billion reasons, really -- in the NFL succeeding. That's why NFL Live airs 12 months a year. It's why you could literally fill an NFL roster with the amount of ex-NFL players and coaches employed by the network right now. It's why shows like PTI and First and 10 constantly debate subjects like Chad Ochocinco's tweets and Tom Brady's hairstyle while largely ignoring topics like the NL Cy Young race or, God forbid, pro tennis or any golfer not named after a large, striped predator.
Thanks in no small part to ESPN, football has become America's default sport. Every other sport practically becomes a niche sport. Heck, it behooves ESPN to shove college football down our throats, as well. Don't go to that network looking for much info on anything but college football on a Saturday this fall.
And while we're at it, I'll tell you who else gets burned by football: college sports like baseball, wrestling, men's tennis and other men's sports. Granted, Title IX -- an absolutely horrific piece of legislation -- is the main culprit. But the fact that Division 1 college football programs need 85 scholarships (!) has always befuddled me. Eighty-five scholarships? That's basically your first, second, third and fourth teams, on both sides of the ball, all getting free rides. (And we still hear stories of non-scholarship players becoming star players. How does that happen? How does anybody slip through the cracks with 85 scholarships available?).
Meanwhile, college baseball teams get 11.7 for a 30-man roster. Men's golf and tennis each get 4.5, etc., etc., and have to carve them up among numerous athletes.
But football gets 85.
It's all about football. It's always about football. And I hate it.