About 8.8 million people tuned into ESPN to watch Texas-Alabama last week, the network’s most-watched Saturday game since 2014.
It barely beat the 8.7 million who watched Nebraska-Colorado on Fox, but was just behind the 9.2 million ESPN pulled in last week for a Sunday broadcast of Florida State-LSU.
In all, 21 college football games have drawn two million or more viewers. At this point in the 2022 season, the total is 18, according to SportsMediaWatch.
So…will next year be the year fans tune into college football because of the “disaster” NIL, or the “wild west” of the transfer portal?
Is that when the stands are empty because college football is just a “minor league sport” or is the Big Ten moving to Division III for philosophical reasons?
Ask for a friend… or at least the whiny coaches, fear-mongering conference commissioners, stupid NCAA lawyers and establishment personalities who tell us, over and over again, that right now everything is will be destroyed forever.
What we do know is that the death of college football will have to be delayed, once again, for at least another year because it sure isn’t this season.
To the surprise of no one capable of critical thinking, college football has not become less popular because players can earn a few dollars and have control over their careers.
If anything, it’s more popular.
Stadiums are full. Television ratings rose, even though ESPN lost 15 million households due to a contract dispute with Charter. The hype around the game was incredible, and not just because of Deion Sanders, although Coach Prime certainly couldn’t hurt.
But wait, weren’t we told that fans wouldn’t see a game flooded with transfers and NIL deals? But, three years later, is the biggest deal ever in Colorado?
What about the competitive balance? Keep in mind that even though you might balk at the idea that Caleb Williams could appear in a Dr. Pepper (and many of those who now claim to have done so in the past contradict that), does all NIL mean the rich will be richer. rich?
Well, you can’t get richer than the SEC. He dominated the game for almost two decades. This year, it is 3-6 against Power 5 teams, with Alabama, LSU, Florida, Texas A&M and South Carolina all losing by double digits.
Meanwhile, the once forgotten Pac-12 is 21-4 overall with eight ranked teams. One big reason: It starts with 10 quarterbacks transferring, including USC’s Williams (formerly of Oklahoma), Colorado’s Shadeur Sanders (Jackson State), Washington’s Michael Penix (Indiana), Oregon’s Bo Nix (Auburn) and Oregon’s DJ Uiagalelei State (Clemson) .
That is the diffusion of talent.
It’s not easy to count, but since 2015, 247Sports has tried through its composite talent rankings. It assigns a value to each player based on their high school recruiting ranking (a clumsy metric, but at least consistent).
In 2023, Alabama is the most “talented” team with 1,015 “points.” In 2017, before NIL or the portal, it was number 1 with 997 points. So this Alabama team has 1.7 percent more “talent.”
However, if you compare the 10th most “talented” team from those years (Oregon now, Notre Dame then), then the Ducks are 5.3 percent more talented. The current No. 25 UCLA has 7.2 percent more talent than then-No. 25 Mississippi State. It is compatible with other seasons and other slots.
If anything, the NIL season and the transfer portal have leveled the playing field, at least a little, at least in the top end of the game.
This even extends to high school recruiting, where non-traditional powers can focus their NIL dollars and attention on one player. Consider that currently 34 of the top 40 recruits in the class of 2024 have spoken to 19 different programs. This is the highest pace in at least a decade. In 2018, only 13 schools hired in the top 40 recruits. In 2017 there were 15. In 2016 there were 19. In 2015 there were 18.
Again, slightly more talent dispersion, no less and certainly not less, as predicted.
Almost everything the establishment claimed would happen did not happen. The same thing happened when they objected to athletic stipends, academic awards, or any promotions.
Imagine the popularity of the game if its most famous coaches and managers weren’t constantly telling fans that it was all rubbish and the future was bleak?
In fact, the biggest threat to the sport’s tradition is conference alignment. Sports directors and commissioners, who secretly manipulate and then transfer entire sports departments to find more money, cannot blame the players for that.
It’s all an attempt to scare the public so that Congress can somehow “save” an industry that, in fact, enjoys bigger profits, bigger broadcasting deals, bigger interests, bigger jobs, and more big salary
But hey, still listen to those old-school coaches getting mad because someone moved their cheese.
Remember, NCAA President Mark Emmert testified during O’Bannon v. NCAA that the NIL will convert college athletics “to minor league sports, and we know that in the US minor league sports are also not successful in terms of support to the fans.” or the fan experience.”
And it was NCAA lawyer Dan Waxman who argued before the Supreme Court that “labor costs” are a “distinctive characteristic” for college sports and that if players make money, interest will decrease. Waxman even brought out a survey that claimed “about 10 percent of respondents said they would be less interested and would watch less if” athletes received even a $10,000 academic award.
The survey is clearly false.
And there’s always former Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who opined that “the Division III model… would, in my opinion, be more consistent with the Big Ten philosophy” if something like the NIL were to emerge. Shortly after, Delany received a $20 million bonus for negotiating a television deal.
The complaints continued. The Washington lobby continues. The alarmists in the media keep shouting (it’s good for ratings). The howls about how the game has been/is/will be broken are still as loud as ever.
It seems that not many real fans are listening anymore.
They are too busy watching the games.