By Pete Donovan, The Lott IMPACT Trophy
Dabo Swinney, the respected and successful head football coach at Clemson recently issued this warning:
“I think there’s going to be a complete blowup … especially in football, and there needs to be. I think eventually there will be some type of break and another division. Right now, you got everybody in one group, and it’s not feasible. Alabama has different problems than Middle Tennessee, but we’re trying to make them all the same and it’s just not. I think you’ll have 40 or 50 teams and a commissioner and here are the rules.”
Is Swinney right or just crying wolf? There are, of course, two major changes in college football: the transfer portal, which allows players to leave one program and transfer to another program with no restrictions (previously a player had to sit out one season) and the ability of a player to use his name, image, and likeness (commonly referred to as NIL) for compensation.
“I am for anything that incentivizes education,” Swinney said. “People will come after me because I’ve always said that I’m against the professionalism of college athletics, and I am. My transfer portal is right there in that locker room because if I’m constantly going out every year and adding guys from the transfer portal, I’m telling all those guys in that locker room that I don’t believe in them, that I don’t think they can play.”
NIL is beginning to have an effect on recruiting – and perhaps in a major way.
“There was no doubt it (NIL) was going to seep into recruiting at some point,” new USC head coach Lincoln Riley told the LA Times. “I think anybody that cares about college football is not real pleased with that because that wasn’t the intention, we all get that. A lot of people voiced concerns when NIL came up that there had to be a plan for that, and instead we instituted NIL without any plan for that, so that’s why we’re at where we’re at. I’m sure at some point there’s going to be a market correction, if you will, with recruiting. Hopefully there will be, because in a perfect world they stay separate.”
But are the transfer portal and NIL the only problems facing college football. Apparently not.
Last season marked the seventh straight year and ninth year in the last 10 that FBS attendance has declined. The NCAA has been tracking FBS attendance since 1976, two years before then-Division I-AA (Football Championship Subdivision) was created.
Average attendance in the Pac-12 was 43,865, the lowest ever since the league expanded to 12. By contrast, the SEC attendance was 72,195. Another problem facing major college football – the vast differences in fan basis from region to region.
It still might come down to the basics. For an aging fan base facing rising ticket, parking, and concession prices, it’s easy to go to a default setting on game day. For younger fans with shorter attention spans, it’s about keeping their attention, period.
“We really are competing against the 70-inch TV and the beer that is cold in your refrigerator and no lines at the restroom,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “We have to continue to make sure we enhance the game day experience.”
All of this makes the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which was founded in 2004, even more important on the college football landscape. The Trophy is more than just an award, but a celebration of all that is good in the game.
The Lott Trophy proudly recognizes the character of the young men who are also excelling on the playing field. And as long as that dynamic continues, college football will thrive.