College Football's Brave New World
While the world was wondering about the possible massive computer glitches, College Football was about to enter an era in which tradition and change would share the same sentence on many occasions.
On the field we saw these changes almost right away. A 27 year old senior QB/retired baseball player won the Heisman, followed by the first-ever option QB to take home the prize for the country's best player.
Off the field, the the changes were even bigger. The game away from the game became a complicated mess, where we see more politicking and less meaningful action on the field and in the post season.
Let's take a look at what has changed in the game in the past decade.
While the sponsor of the BCS Championship changes regularly, so have the rules and qualifying standards for the Championship Game.
The 2000 season was a big mess for the BCS and it hasn't gotten much better.
In 2000, Miami finished with the same record as Florida State, beat the Seminoles head to head, and the Canes' loss happened before the Noles' loss, yet FSU went to the title game instead of Miami.
Miami Head Coach at the time Butch Davis refused to run up the score in blowouts while Bobby Bowden's Seminoles were throwing deep up by 30 or more in the 4th quarter as margin of victory was part of the equation.
The formula changes regularly but what never seems to change is the system never seems to get it right. Nearly no one is happy, not just with the championship game itself but with who is participating.
The AP finally had enough and has nothing to do with the BCS anymore.
Nowadays every play of every college football game is reviewed. What hasn't changed is the referees don't always get it right.
Because of the seemingly endless long delays, the TV audience has plenty of time and angles to see how the men is stripes blow calls, but it doesn't overturn what happens in the game.
Speaking of delays, the referees are so afraid of the onslaught of criticism even the simple calls take minutes to actually stand.
On every touchdown or spectacular catch we cheer twice, once when the player makes the play, another 10 minutes later when it's announced the play stands.
Let's not forget the worst calls aren't even reviewable as no one would ever imagine that such a horrific call could take place to even put it in the reviewable category.
Cream Puff Scheduling
A few years ago the NCAA added a 12th game to everyone's schedule. This was a result of many teams wanting to be involved in the Kickoff Classic and other games which took place before the actual season started which allowed teams to start practice a week early.
While we fans hoped this meant a return of some of the old regional rivalries that were done away with because of the formation of power conferences, many teams took it as an opportunity to pad the schedule and inflate their record with a wipeout win over an over matched lower division school.
To make matters worse the NCAA allowed one win against a lower division team to count towards bowl eligibility.
This has been a double whammy to the fans as we now have some pretty lousy games to watch at full price ticket prices (congrats season ticket holders around the country) and a whole lot of bowl teams who have a losing record against upper division teams.
We can only hope the rules get changed around to make this one right as it really was an opportunity to make the game better.
Campaigning For The Heisman
The Heisman campaign used to mean what the player did on the field during a particular season. The body of work would then be evaluated next to other players and the nation's best player would then be awarded the Heisman Trophy.
While there has always been some posturing and promoting by schools for their players who have a chance to emerge among the elite, the new millennium found this promoting being taken to a whole new level.
The Oregon Ducks got the ball rolling by taking out a several story high advertisement simply introducing to the world their Heisman candidate and QB Joey Harrington. Soon web pages and billboards were seen around the country promoting a host of candidates.
While voters mainly get to see the players who get on TV or in the highlight reels the most, the players pay extra attention to doing the things that will get them there.
I don't think we're far away from commercials being aired during games like those we see during Presidential elections. Time will only tell but it looks like it's the direction we are headed.
The Little Dog Takes on the Big Dog
After much arguing, begging, and just about any other form of groveling imaginable, the BCS finally broke down and let the smaller, non-BCS conference teams into BCS Bowl Games if they met certain criteria.
Of course, the criteria involved finishing in the top eight and then jumping through a series of intricate hoops.
Once the hoops feat is accomplished, the teams must navigate a higher set of hoops and then perform a series of tests which may or may not include having every player from the team in question able to say and write each of their teammates' names in Mandarin Chinese.
The little guy has made the most of the few opportunities they have gotten and at this point it is getting safe to say that no one hopes to be the team to draw the little guy in their BCS Bowl game, as each non-BCS team who has qualified for a BCS game has yet to lose.
On each occasion, the BCS buster was undefeated and finished undefeated by closing out a historical powerhouse in a pretty humiliating manner.
Maybe someday the little guy will actually get a real fair shake and get to play in the title game.
Recruiting The Next Superstar
With the information age comes an ability to follow each and every one of the hundreds of thousands of High School football players across the country.
Also with the availability of information without ever having actually seen the bulk of these prospects play comes a whole new level of speculation.
Since every website wants to be the one to discover the next Walter Payton or Dan Marino, and to announce where and who these stars of the future will grace with their presence, the idea is to create hysteria.
We now know the names of all of the stars before they ever step on the field or play a down. What's even more crazy is some of these players never even qualify or make it to the field.
A whole other set never develops at the next level and then some guys who nobody even thought of recruiting end up being the stars.
No matter how much information we have, this process is no exact science.
Since recruiting rankings are rarely revisited and never amended after players end up not qualifying or kids decide weeks and even months after National Signing Day, the whole thing ends up being pretty moot anyway.
Go ahead and do a search engine search on recruiting for this year. There are already rankings, yet none of these kids have even played a down of football in their High School Senior season. Makes you think but it only gets crazier every year.
Cashing In Early
The building of dynasties happened rarely enough in the the good ol' days but even the thought has become a thing of the past.
When players were first allowed to leave early, only those players who were upper first round NFL talent left, now it seems that if you have a chance of making an NFL roster at all it is a green light to run for the exit.
Freshman play right away when they used to play not at all. It isn't a situation where a player has a few years to learn the system, it's more like a few weeks.
It's pretty standard for players to graduate early, forgo half of their Senior year of High School, and enroll in the College or University where they are going to play the following year by the Spring.
All of this so they can contribute right away as their are holes to be filled and playing time to be had.
This isn't going away anytime soon as the NFL money is alive and well the risk of a career-threatening injury while playing for free is becoming less and less appealing to these young players.
Coaches Don't Get To Really Vote
During this past decade it has been decided that the coaches will vote whomever wins the BCS Title Game number one in their poll. They have no choice so it isn't really a poll at all.
The AP figured out that since the two best teams don't necessarily meet in the championship game, they were going to leave the BCS and actually still vote for who they thought was the best team.
We have heard threats by coaches that they are going to buck the system but no one has really stepped up to do it and my guess is no one is actually going to do it.
When there are millions of dollars at stake and you have a job that pays a few million dollars a year, why risk it?
The BCS appears to be happy with the way things are right now so that
means it is going to take some work to ever get this back to being a real vote.
Pay Per View
There is more College Football on TV than ever before. Over the course of a given week, anyone can catch almost every game that is being played one way or another.
While many games are available on traditional over the air television, even more are available through basic cable, premium packages, and on a pay per view basis.
The scariest of these is pay per view as it is the way that can ultimately cost fans the most. Who is to say they won't be moving the big time games to pay per view and charging big time prices for them?
It is becoming increasingly rarer that a network will switch away from a blow out to a more competitive game and encourage people to buy packages so they can watch whichever game they choose.
While I am willing to pay the prices for now, I know a lot of people that don't even have the option to purchase these packages from their cable provider.
While choice is a great thing for College Football fans, making sure people actually have the choices is equally important.