A number of meaningless games between mediocre teams could cause a wane in fan interest for all but the most dedicated college football fans.
Another College football bowl season has come and gone, save for the SEC Championship, I mean, National Championship game next week, but some have concerns about the future of this particular version of football in America.
The powers that be in the NCAA may do well to look at the decline in interest in the NFL to see where they may be heading in the not so distant future. Skyrocketing coaches’ salaries and bonus inducements, a proliferation of bowl games saturating the market, and a lack of attendance at many of the so-called lesser bowls, should be a harbinger of concern for those who promote the game.
The amounts of money being bandied about foreshadow a similar situation to college basketball’s recent scandal, in which some assistant coaches and others are charged with directing money to player’s families in exchange for contacts with agents and the like. Does anyone believe the temptation is not there for football coaches as well? Could college football survive such a scandal and remain as popular?
Even without that, just look at the proliferation of bowl games currently being staged at the end of the regular season. I counted 40 bowl games, including the National Championship Game to be played next Monday night in Atlanta. These games, played over a three-week period, have saturated the market, and since the inception of the four-team playoff, are seeming insignificant to all but the supporters of the teams involved.
Bowl games, once a reward for select teams for having a good season, are now handed out to mediocre 6-6 teams with regularity. A total of 22 bowl games had been staged before a game was played between two Top-25 ranked teams, that being the Camping World Bowl, a contest between Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State on December 28. There were games on each day of the week, including Sunday, Christmas Eve, and at all times of the day.
Many of the games were played before small crowds of supporters, in venues far from the schools that were participating. And in addition to the cost of travel, lodging, and tickets, many supporters would find it hard to take the time away from home to see the games in person over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period rife with family get-togethers.
So many games, on so many days, lead to disinterest in the overall product. Just ask the NFL. The league swayed from its traditional Sunday games to Monday Night Football, which was big hit in the beginning. Then they started Sunday night games, Thursday night games, games in England, games with starting times near the 9PM hour on the East coast, and interest began to wane.
Too much of anything will eventually get old and people will start to lose interest. It won’t be a massive boycott, but declining attendance and TV viewership will take its toll.
Even now, marquee players, with future paychecks in mind, are starting to skip the meaningless games to avoid a possible injury that may weaken their draft position or even cut short a promising career. I don’t blame them for making that decision, but it takes away from the anticipation of seeing the best players on the field. Often the draw for the casual fan will be the much-heralded star from one of the .500 teams in a particular game.
Let’s face it, money is the driving factor, and will continue to be as long as it is available, from TV revenues, ticket sales and endorsements from shoe and equipment companies. Lost in all this is the pageantry and majesty that the New Year’s Bowl games once represented.
Teams going through the motions of a football game that means little to either side, while their best players watch from the sidelines, weaken the college football product, and the NCAA would do well to take notice.