A JERSEY GUY: The Price for Playing CFB keeps Increasing

The battle to save the 2020 college football season continues, but so does the cost.
Publish date:

I love college football. 

I've spent most of my autumns for the past 38 years, marveling and enjoying the pageantry of a sport which has taken me from places such as South Bend, Indiana to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Ann Arbor Michigan to Pasadena, Calif.

If you are a college football fan, I don't need to explain the connection to those date lines.

I have seen some of the most dramatic moments in the history of the sport.

The Hail Flutie game winning TD pass in 1984 that gave Boston College a win over Miami and created a college football legend.

Every national championship game for the past 30 years, including a Rose Bowl and national championship for the ages when Texas beat USC in 2006. 

I have watched CFB at the highest level, but have also seen it at its purist.

Division 3 games between Amherst and Williams I even watched game-film of previous games with the Williams team the night before a game —on a movie projector and a white sheet tacked to the wall.

I remember an Indian Summer afternoon in Northern Minnesota with my TMG partner and friend, the late, great Chris Dufresne when St. John's and legendary coach John Gagliardi won his record 409th game.

I have also seen the under belly of the sport--five years spent watching Southwest Conference football there wasn't even pretense that major violations were taking place, a sequence which ended when the NCAA invoked the "death penalty'', shutting down an SMU program and giving new meaning to the term "pay for play''.

It was indeed the wild, wild west in Texas and the SWC during the 1980s.  

I remember being at one spring meeting when I asked the coach at Rice, one of the few schools in the SWC which hadn't been charged with recruiting violations, how that had happened.

"Oh, we cheat,'' said the coach, which made me think I had a major scoop, "but like everything else we do at Rice  in football, we're no good at it.''

Major college football has gone through surges, it has also slowly and steadily devolved further and further away from the concept of "student'-athlete', a term which needs to be retired sooner rather than later.

It has gone through reconfigurations of conferences and a change in the system which now has created a four team playoff system, something almost every FBS Power 5 President said they wouldn't even consider 10 years ago.

The linking factor in all cases has been financial.

Which brings us to the college football world we have now in the summer of a COVID-19 pandemic that has created chaos, confusion and conflict.

There is a moral tug of war for the ages being waged here.

On one hand we have a group, led by the Ivy Leagues, who still see college football as a sport, an activity for "student-athletes'' and not much more.

But that is at the Ivy League, Division II and Division III levels and even at the FCS level of Division 1.

On the other side are the Power, 5 conference schools, who are also split apart, with the Pac-12 and Big Ten breaking away from the SEC, Big 12 and ACC.

You can listen to all the rhetoric about safety and concern for the welfare of the players and personnel involved. 

It's legitimate, but it's not the main factor in why there is even a question about whether college football should be played in the middle of what is a world wide crisis. A pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans and has made even the simple act of a handshake a dangerous experience.

The main reason is MONEY.  

Pure and simple.

Eliminate that factor and Power 5 football would have been shut down at the same time as Ivy League.

It is the reason why the adults are acting like children, immature children, making excuses for their behavior, compromising their principles, willing to make arrangements and take short cuts.

Schedules have been shortened, crowds eliminated, players and coaches isolated on campus so football can be played.

Players are risking their lives, as well as their friends’ and families‘ lives, but also allowing their freedom to be restricted so they can play GAMES, which are being held simply because they create extra revenue for the schools and conferences.

Moral deals are being made by coaches and players on a daily basis to feed a beast which in a world without financial stakes, should be in hibernation.

Go to any athletic department in the country right now, where college football is still an active sport and find ONE, ONE happy person, or someone who is content with the current situation.

In a country which is already being torn apart for political and social reasons, college football is now tearing the country apart on regional reasons.

Look at the map and check the places where college football has been called off and where it is still being held and you have a North-South conflict that is likely to get nastier before it gets friendlier, especially in a Presidential election year.

Again, remove money as an issue, and the world of college football goes mainly quiet, although cutting college football out of the south is a major surgical move.

I am equally torn. I want to see games on a College Football America Saturday in the fall.

But, I also know that even if the season does start in less than three weeks and games are played—each day, each week will be a logistical and moral nightmare of worry and dread working against the satisfaction from having games actually played.

The people still playing the game are mostly good people with good intentions.

The reasons why the fight goes on is not as attractive, and one consequence of all of this seems clear.

Any pretense that big time college football is anything other than a quasi professional, business venture has now been exposed.

And no matter what happens, the game will never quite be the same.