For the past 21 years, I have lived in Madison, WI. Every Saturday the Badgers have a home game, downtown is grinds to a halt. State Street and the surrounding areas flow with Badger fans. College football is huge in Madison, as it is in hundreds of other college towns across America. But to think it is some pure for-the-love-of-the-game tradition, nothing could be further from the truth.
Many turn from the NFL, its advertising, its money, its rich owners, the Chad Ochocinco’s and Terrell Owenses.
College football has a special pride in its traditions, the rivalries, its bowls, its Notre Dames and USCs.
However, the only difference between the NFL and the NCAA is the age of the players and number of teams.
All the college bowl games have some sponsor, and now bowl games are being invented simply for the sake of getting more money into the game. In fact, a big reason the NCAA refuses to move to a playoff system is for fear that advertisers will pull out of BCS games, which may be rendered unimportant.
While college football teams don’t have owners per say, they are nonetheless run by the richest members of society: the boosters.
The boosters use their money to influence the universities into hiring certain Athletic Directors and coaches. You think the money from Urban Myer’s contract came out of the state budget? Boosters agreed to contribute the money to make that deal possible. And if the boosters threaten to stop donating money while coach X is in charge of a team, don’t expect that coach to last much longer.
However, it’s not only the programs looking for money, but the players as well. Every Saturday, every player in the NCAA is hoping to get noticed by professional scouts. Every time a college football player hits the gym, they’re doing what they can to get paid in the future.
The number of true student athletes in division I football is near nil.
Track, rowing, and soccer are true student athlete sports, as those programs have much fewer scholarships to give out and the players have smaller odds of going pro.
Yes, college football has Tim Tebow, an amazing human being and football player. But for every player like Tebow, there are at least as many knuckleheads who can’t keep academically eligible, get in fights in clubs and bars, and commit every crime their NFL counterparts have committed.
College football does have a large number of intense rivalries. Every time the Golden Gophers come to Madison, it’s truly a different type of Saturday. But, having been to Packers-Bears games, I can’t say there’s any more or less animosity towards the opponent. Obviously college football has more rivalries as it has more teams, but they don’t particularly standout from the NFL, and vice versa.
Both the NFL and NCAA have their positive features. Both have the rivalries, the passion, the game day atmospheres, the championship, and of course the fans. But both the NFL and NCAA are driven by money.
All the NFL teams and NCAA universities do their best to keep money flowing into their coffers.
The players are all either playing for the next big contract or working to move into or up the draft board.
We all admire all the history, the legacies, the memories that football gives us, professionally or otherwise. But at the end of the day, anyone thinking that college football is somehow purer or more innocent than the NFL is oblivious to the reality of the situation.