In the classic 1998 rom-com “You’ve Got Mail” — I’d describe Mrs. O’s favorite chick flick as a classic. discuss? – Joe Fox tells Kathleen Kelly that forcing her small family-owned bookstore to close is tough business.
“It’s not personal,” he confirms.
Kelly isn’t buying it. She shook her head in disgust at the supermarket owner’s famous “Godfather” reference.
“I’m so sick,” she says. “All that meant it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s personal for many people.
It sure is. But is anyone talking about it?
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That funny but enlightening Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan scene came to mind last week at Big Ten Football Media Days in Indianapolis when commissioner Kevin Warren, conference coaches and Big Ten Network talk heads talked about the changes happening in college athletics.
There has been a flurry of frustration over conference realignment, name, image and homogeneity — Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz’s harangue was particularly impressive, and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s bemoaning the loss of regional conferences — but the general sentiment was “the new.” College football is a business, not a private one.
College football is a business, not a private one.
“He is” in the current vernacular.
Maryland coach Mike Locksley said the two West Coast teams will have to travel 2,500 miles and three time zones to finally play UCLA and Southern California when the two West Coast teams begin a Big Ten matchup in 2024.
Accepting change is mostly healthy. Don’t cheat on what you can’t control. But if college sports aren’t the least bit bothered by the increasing professionalism, I wonder what they want from amateur athletics in the first place (besides lower ticket prices, cheaper parking, and more non-competitive conference games)?
Do you think regional competition? Would it annoy you if athletes could transfer as much time as they wanted? (The NCAA announced last week that it is close to removing the limit on players transferring multiple times). When the first quarterback is making $2 million in net money and the second-team tight end is making $10,000, do you worry that locker room chemistry will fizzle?
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Yes, it’s private. And this is coming from someone who supports the NIL and is selfishly happy about the Bruins and Trojans and the 16-team playoffs (the selfish side of me feels for the athletes who are forced to cross the country) and more games to make more money for institutions that say football players aren’t just about the money. They were forced. (Hey, it’s complicated.)
It would be naive to expect college football to tread water. I don’t support going back to the pre-player era. But taking another shot at becoming NFL 2.0? Some argue that we are already there, but we are not. Players are looking to unionize — see Penn State — but aren’t legally university employees yet. And athletes, be careful what you wish for on that topic, because employees can be fired if they drop three passes in a game or trip on the balance beam in a row.
What the fans want
What do fans want? Maybe you don’t care about the bureaucracy of the sport, you don’t need to work a second job for money, you’re perfectly content to drink and watch your team on TV.
It may be so. A Twitter poll conducted last week indicated that 71% of fans will continue to watch as much college football as possible, regardless of whether the conferences are divided into those that are and those that are not. (That is, the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference form 24-team Super Leagues that compete in the national championship game). Twitter’s audience skews young, so the numbers leave a good chunk of traditionalists, but those dinosaurs aren’t, ahem, the future.
On the other hand, warning signs cannot be ignored. The same survey found that 26% only watch high-level college football, not the watered-down Pac-12, for example, which doesn’t bode well for conferences that don’t have B-Leagues.
Fortunately, the production on the field (including the band!) is basically the same as ever. This semi-random business of college football affects the personal because they know some empathy outside of their own windowless worlds and give some empathy.
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It’s somewhat understandable, if not a little disappointing, for CEO coaches to keep things private. They’re motivated to banish distractions, yes, but saying “I feel for the fans on this topic” just once won’t kill them.
“I don’t know if I’m a fan (of the changes). I know we have to adapt,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “That’s what you need to focus on.”
He is talking about the business side. But just under the curtain of the day, let me break out a little piece of her personality.
“There are nights when you don’t sleep well because you don’t know what’s coming,” he said.
Join the club, coach. It’s personal for many people.
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