College sports is on the decline.
This is a statement fans have been hearing for years.
The pro-levels are depleting what the NCAA has to offer. Too much money and a changing culture have turned the game into a shell of its former self.
But what happens when the pro game goes missing?
As the NBA surpasses the free agency peak and the NFL is getting ready for contract holdouts entering training camp, the NCAA head honchos are licking their chops. Both sports have lingering collective bargaining disputes and the amateur levels of the games could be in for a large bonus.
One thing is for sure, football is the most popular sport in the America. Fans crave the game 365 days a year. Each phase of the game is monitored closely. Start with training camp, then preseason, regular season, playoffs, Super Bowl, mini camps, the draft, and end with OTAs. It sounds like a lot, but people are always watching.
So if those go missing next year, the NCAA is about to take an even more expanded role.
Many die-hards will watch the spring game and spring practices, but the college football off season has a bit of a silence to it. A team or student getting in trouble by the NCAA is the most uttered aside from a few random periods in between the National Championship and season.
Take away the NFL and all of a sudden, NCAA strikes gold.
The hype will become louder going into the season and make the game even more important. Football games are on television five days a week when both the NFL and NCAA is going on. If the NFL is gone, that goes down to three.
Or does it?
The NCAA will have the opportunity not only to hype their game, but take over prime slots. The occasional Sunday night college game could become a regular. How about Monday Night Football, the college edition?
And let's not forget the bowl season.
This will lead up to the ultimate—a National Championship game that won't even have to worry about the NFL playoff race.
The BCS game could go on television any night of the week, at anytime. The hype from the season, where more fans will be vested than ever, would give the college game their own Super Bowl.
The quality of players involved may be even better. There is no Europe for a player to go to and the college game stands above all the other minor league football systems in existence.
Top seniors will be playing with the hopes that the NFL is back, juniors may begin building even stronger rivalries to position themselves for their senior seasons, and everyone will benefit.
And then as that season ends...
With the NBA on strike, college sports will be transitioning from their own Super Bowl right into March Madness.
Already the most hyped tournament in the country, the college basketball gauntlet will reach even larger proportions.
The game may be able to produce actual superstars again. Not forced one and done players, but those who had to stick it out at least two years. Some may bolt for Europe, but others will realize there is no better option.
NCAA basketball may finally begin to build new rivalries again and the game will earn back its respect. There won't be a Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird, but the quality of the game will take a step forward.
College programs will have the opportunity to build actual teams again. How would John Calipari react if he actually had to coach the same players two years in a row?
Recruiting would become more intense, but better for the game as a whole.
With one and done players not as common, less roster spots become available to the top players. More big recruits have to scatter across the NCAA instead of being harbored by coaches who magically have 10 new scholarships each year.
The game itself will get bigger ratings, more coverage, and prove it can take the steps back needed for greatness.
NBA and NFL strike, NCAA strikes gold
The world is still a year away from any of these possibilities. But even if just one of the two takes a break, the NCAA will be ready to pounce.
With all the expansion talk of leagues and tournaments over the past year, the NCAA game has been scrutinized. But they may be setting themselves up for even more power.
It's still all about the money and they could be making plenty of it.
A lot of questions remain in both sports, but if the NCAA is smart they are concocting their own game plan.
When the only versions of football and basketball to watch are NCAA games, you would hope the commissioners are asking themselves...
What can we do to not screw this up?