The Fall of College Football
850 total words
By Chris Warner (Chriswarnerauthor.com)
December 20, 2021
Don’t act surprised. Anyone paying attention could have told you this would happen—as unthinkable as it is to us, much less our departed forebears who passed the game down. After all, it’s not like it came suddenly, out of nowhere—without any indication. There were signs. The astute saw it happening 20 years ago.
For the fabled, forlorn frog in the boiling pot—it’s all good—until it isn’t. Similarly, for college football fans, things are quickly becoming unbearably hot; and it’s not unlike the moment the proverbial sweating frog finally realizes he’s cooked; with no time left for croaking. The once-clever tadpole never saw it coming—or did he—and simply did nothing? Who benefits from such a wily scenario?
The people in control benefit—that’s who—the ones filling the pot. The problem is the people once in control are fast losing it. The system changed. The confluence of the politics of wokeness and greed happened. The revered product, as a result, is irreparably different. Will ticket sales survive the tumult? Will fans remain devout as the loyalty cookie crumbles? It is doubtful.
Name, Image & Likeness (NIL) money now freely flows to entice talented, in-conference transfer portal players, and the “Collegiate” part of the NCAA acronym seems a bit brash, in retrospect; if not wholly hypocritical, as amateurism is gone with the wind, seemingly with any semblance of good sense. But hey—that’s all on the narrow shoulders and even lighter conscience of Dr. Mark Emmert, the former LSU Chancellor and current NCAA President of nothing. Ruining college football is firmly his legacy. It will be somebody else’s job to fix what he allowed to happen at the direction of his selfish handlers who continue to collude to protect the few against the many while forever bastardizing the term student-athlete. But make no mistake, this is Emmert’s mess—his fingerprints are all over it.
In the fall of 2002, Mark Emmert was the new LSU Chancellor. Two years prior, his first order of business was hiring Nick Saban from Michigan State for a record $1.25 million salary. At the press conference of Saban’s hiring, Emmert made the controversial statement, “Success in LSU Football is essential for the success of Louisiana State University.” Die-hard LSU Football fans loved the zeal—even if it was dubious. Academicians simply shuddered. The cart was firmly before the horse, Pandora’s Box forever compromised. In hindsight, Emmert’s statement was calculated; he was pining for his current place-holding stint—and he eventually got what he wanted leaving the Ole War Skule for his dream sinecure. The rest, as they say, is history—college football history.
I recall vividly that fall of 2002, the “Bluegrass Miracle” epoch, speaking to the recently-retired, former LSU Basketball Coach, Dale Brown, in Baton Rouge about LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert’s questionable leadership style that had brought much negative attention to the university. Coach Brown, never one to hold his tongue, commented, “I’ve been here over 30 years and Mark Emmert is the biggest phony I’ve seen! It’s not even close!” His harsh public assertion, predictably, brought spicy, mixed reviews. Nevertheless, he was on the record.
Fast forward 20 years. With the benefit of two decades of time between that statement and now, it appears that Coach Brown was as accurate as he was prescient; as Emmert has presided over the precipitous fall of football at the benefit of his college gate-keeping masters, the brokers of the perennial gridiron powerhouses, the Playoff Selection Committee and their influence-peddling cronies who operate behind the scenes, the conference presidents and TV executives who have traditionally benefitted most from the closed system, all scrambling to maintain power and control in a paradigm splintering as fast amateurism, loyalty and tradition along with the pageantry that always set the college game apart from its nauseous pro counterpart. The NCAA’s days are numbered; its role forever tarnished and questioned.
Speaking of questions…one of many that should be answered is how do universities rectify the paying of NIL money to student-athletes supposedly pursuing a degree while playing and prospering in a de facto semi-professional, three-year NFL farm system? And as a follow-up: Is a college or university the proper setting for the outright prostitution of “student”-athletes? Have we really transgressed this far?
The NFL benefits greatly from the beer and circus of college football. It is where its inputs are educated and trained to play the king of outdoor sports. Waning interest in college football will negatively impact the pro product.
All that once was good about college football is in jeopardy if changes do not occur. The game infused with romantic post-Civil War aggression, Southern redemption and indomitable regional pride will not survive without dialing back these unrestricted system inputs, less the insufferable, losing outcome: the boiled out stadium-pots no longer filled with unknowing, non-croaking fans.
*Chris Warner is a double graduate of LSU in Baton Rouge. He lives in Perdido Key, Florida. He is the author of “A Tailgater’s Guide to SEC Football” and “Inside the Eye of the Tiger, a tell-all book on the LSU Athletic Department, with former LSU head tennis coach, Jerry Simmons. He is also a regular speaker. Visit his website: chriswarnerauthor.com
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