College football, to me, has a credibility issue. Take Ohio State’s bowl victory over Arkansas. Players critical to Ohio State’s win will be suspended at the start of the next season. Whether or not they should be facing sanctions for their offenses (selling championship rings, etc.) isn’t really the point. The point is the NCAA came up with some reasoning for them to be eligible for their next game, but not the 5 following that, because they needed their bowl game to be competitive. If Ohio State starts 3-2 next year and is immediately out of the championship hunt because it doesn’t have Terrelle Pryor, that isn’t of much concern to the NCAA. The Buckeyes don’t have to be good every year. Some other team will step up and take their place, but with the bowl games already slated, with all that money invested in Pryor vs. Mallett, you bet your ass they are going to come up with a loophole.
And, that is just one of many reasons why when I turn on college football ball these days I can’t help but think I am watching a big charade. Tonight is the marquee game of the year. You have Oregon, who has become relevent thanks to a constant stream of money from Nike, and Auburn who already has an undefeated season under sanctions to their credit and this year had to put up with the Newton recruiting scandal. Right now watching college football for me, and trying to believe it’s a fair, scholar-athlete based event is like watching the WWE and trying to pretend the matches aren’t fixed. You can still watch to be entertained, but something is really missing.
I know part of my apathy is due to my declining interest in college football in general. Without a real team to get behind, I am a bit rudderless in my college fandom, and I have to seek out the occasional big game. I don’t stomp around in the colors of my alma mater every Saturday fired up whether they’re playing Toledo or Texas. For someone like me, I have to wait around for conference title games, or what is supposed to be the big game tonight. Something about this year, though, isn’t grabbing me. I wonder who out there, aside from Auburn and Oregon people, is interested in this game? Why, for me, I’m struggling to drum up interest…
1. The teams. Even though these are big programs from BCS conferences, I think we’re lacking a little name recognition here. Oregon is buried on the west coast, Auburn has been overshadowed for a decade by Alabama, LSU and Tennessee, and so I don’t have an immediate feeling on either team. I remember back in the day when at the very least, I was rooting against someone (Notre Dame, Miami). Now, I feel like I’d spend the entire game rooting for whoever was on offense.
2. The underlying issues. Oregon’s association with Nike turns me off. It’s kind of like the Yankees only baseball is a professional endeavor and they should do whatever they can to maximize revenue. At the college level, where you’d like to buy into the notion that things are more fair, Oregon’s Nike deal makes that impossible. You could say that Nike is just leveling the playing field for Oregon with the rest of the big boys, and that may be true, but it’s just too in your face for my taste. If you’re selling the idyllic myth, don’t be so heavy-handed with your sponsor associations. And, for Auburn, it’s the Newton thing. Whether or not Newton did anything wrong personally, it’s just another reminder of how shady college football is, and how you never know if the game you are watching is going to be voided 3-5 years down the line.
3. The scheduling. Again, casual fan here, so I’m trying to remember back to the last time I was thinking about college football before today. Auburn’s last real big game was against Alabama. I have vague memories of that. Are we talking 8 weeks at this point? I think the NBA off-season is shorter than this break. And, I don’t know how you are supposed to shift focus to college football the day after wild-card weekend. Even if you aren’t in an afflicted town like Philly, the NFL was just right there at your fingertips. And, it’ll be back this Saturday. This game tonight feels like a blip.
So, anyway, if you are out there, tell me why you are watching. Tell me who you are rooting for. I’m going go for the Ducks, I think, despite my allegiance to Charles Barkley. The Tigers are slim favorites, so this way I can at least say I’m going for the dog.