As the 2021 College Football season gets ready to kickoff, it occurs to me that the game may be fundamentally changing in a number of ways.
First, there was the announcement of a “proposed” new playoff field. Adding a 12 team playoff format brought D1 College Football into the 21st century. It also gave the smaller conferences an invitation to the dance. I am not saying it would be a recruiting game changer, but it would give perennial Group of Five leaders like UCF at least a puncher’s chance at the playoffs. However, with the recent announcement of Texas and Oklahoma heading to the SEC, one wonders what this does to the other conferences and ultimately the proposed playoff format. I have no doubt that the SEC could make an argument that they should get two automatic bids and depending on how the other major conferences shakeout, there could be more of the same. If, on the other hand, the proposed playoffs go through as planned, smaller schools may become more prominent.
But what about the recent ability of college athletes to get paid? On first pass, one would think that will disproportionately help the big dogs. On the surface, that would seem the case and the most likely one. However, it would not be surprising to see big donors step up to help smaller schools as well. I will use Oklahoma State as an example. I recognize that it is hardly a small school, but with no disrespect to the Pokes, they are not exactly what you think of as top tier. However, if T-Boone Pickens could had funneled his hundreds of millions into more than just facilities just imagine the roster he could have built. I don’t see this kind of thing making Troy State a perennial power, but you could see a situation where the right money to the right player at the right time could elevate a smaller team to the upper echelon for a year or two. Combine this with a playoff system that would let them in and the national championship discussion could be much different. Regardless of how it shakes out, the money will have the college game slowly creeping closer to the pro’s.
The third change coming down the road is far more ominous. The number of insurers willing to cover college football teams is slowly dropping to low single digits while the premiums are skyrocketing. Even If a college football team can find an insurer, they may not be able to afford them. The number of CTE cases continue to rise and it probably isn’t going to get better unless the game is fundamentally changed. There are ways to make the game safer but from rule changes to tracking cumulative “hits” on the head, they would all be impactful to the game as we know it.
The way I calculate my run rate to get to all stadiums, I figure I have anywhere from five to seven years to get there. I never thought I’d have to worry about the game changing before I got them all in. I am not so sure anymore.
See you in the cheap seats.