College Football season is finally here, and with it come a flood of emotions and change.
Whether your focus is primarily on football, or in another sport or area of an athletic department, the kickoff to the season still holds special meaning. For some, this is the event that brought us to the world of sports business and administration. For others, football is a means to an end, funding programs we are truly passionate about. And there is plenty of room in between those two, but regardless of your thoughts on the sport, its undeniable that is has become the primary driver of change in college athletics.
Sure, basketball draws it’s own share of attention and revenue. More schools play it, and parity isn’t quite as scarce as it is on the gridiron. But basketball isn’t the driving force behind the unprecedented TV contracts we’ve seen. It isn’t the primary motivator in realignment talks. And more importantly, basketball doesn’t get the wall-to-wall, season long coverage that football gets.
That coverage, those hundreds of thousands of eyes peering into your program, eyes that were looking elsewhere not a week earlier, are both what we work so hard for, and what we dread.
Maybe it’s the sheer volume of manpower required to field a football team. Maybe it’s the week-long breaks in the action, or the ever increasing number of outlets covering the sport. Whatever it is, football and the media surrounding it have built themselves an echo chamber where human interest is amplified to sometimes ridiculous levels. While this carries with it positive aspects, like a growing focus on player safety, it also creates unrealistic expectations and snowballing story lines.
A single injury can mean a mismatch in a game, which to a columnist can mean an incomplete unit, and by proxy an incompetent coach, which reflects poorly on the people that hired him. The armchair quarterback is now an armchair athletic director.
I can sit here and lament how media coverage has devolved into an endless quest for clicks, or how greed and television money has transformed college athletics into a revolving door. But I honestly believe all the attention has made college athletics better.
Sure, players aren’t getting paid, but at no point in history did they receive the treatment and benefits they see now. Regardless of how you feel about the legends of the game, coaching and player development has never been better. And perhaps most importantly, athletic departments have never been as effective and successful as they are now.
All the attention and money have been a blessing and a curse, and it may be hard to recognize through the stress and haze of football season, but this truly is a golden age for all of college athletics. In many ways football can be an attraction, a distraction, a money-maker, and a drain, but it is also a driver of progress. Football has become the brightest light, and many people, especially student-athletes, are better for it.
So, if you can tonight, or any time in the next few months, take a moment to sit down, watch a game or two, and rediscover why we all started doing this in the first place.
Matthew Monte is Managing Editor of College AD and formerly Co-Managing Editor of Underdog Dynasty. He is a graduate of The B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration at UL Lafayette, mostly because it didn't require a foreign language. Matt is also a recovering stand up comedian who occasionally relapses.