The Best of 2016
Contrary to popular belief, soccer is not the fastest growing sport in America. College football is. In the last four years, thirty-six football programs have been started or re-started at NCAA, NAIA or independent institutions. There are now almost 130 Division I teams competing among NCAA member institutions alone. The success of professional football is also at an all-time high. This includes the National Football League, the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League.
In the south, college football is king. As the 2016 season approaches, the Alabama Gazette has covered the pre-season devoted to the race for the Eastern and Western Division Titles in the SEC. Also in September, we will take a look at what we think are the top college football teams in America. Football 365 is the name of a TV/radio show that we started in 2014, signifying that football is never “over” for the more maniacal fans, of which there are millions in the south, southwest and in Nebraska.
1. Pre-season ~ May-September 2. Season ~ September-December
3. Bowls/NFL ~ December-February 4. Recruiting ~ January-March
5. Spring Practice ~ March-May 6. NFL Combine/Draft ~ March-April
The SEC Media Days in July were once again a three ring circus with the coaches at center ring, the hundreds of members of the media occupying one ring and a few players from each team filling out the last ring. As has been my custom for the last few years, I did not seek media credentials to this “circus.” It seems to me that we can just about get enough information off the internet, from television sports and the extensive newspaper coverage that is available if one stays in Montgomery. The air conditioning is better, the food is cheaper and the “rent” at my house is certainly cheaper than the exorbitant motel rooms in and around the convention site. According to my calculations, this will save me or my company between $500 to $1,000. And, another benefit of staying at home is that I tend to get more sleep. This is probably healthier for a man of my years. I do miss one thing about not being at this convention. I miss seeing my old friends from the coaching profession and from my involvement with the media over the last few decades. Of course, the people that I knew well have retired, become incapacitated or have expired. That takes a little sting out of not going every year. Maybe again someday!
The SEC has been the measuring stick for college football for many years. SEC teams did better than the average in bowl games prior to the creation of national championship play-offs. In the last ten years, an SEC team has won eight national championships using the play-off system in place. The exception was Florida State over Auburn (SEC) in 2013 and Ohio State over Alabama (SEC) in 2014. Alabama has four, Florida has two, LSU and Auburn have one each. Why is that? There is not just one reason. The climate is favorable to football in the south. Have you ever been to a game at Ann Arbor, Michigan in December?
The overall talent pool for skill positions is greater in the south. Don Hutson, who was a teammate of Bear Bryant at Alabama in the early thirties, is still considered the best receiver of all time for his exploits with the Green Bay Packers. Name the latest great receiver that has come out of Wisconsin in your lifetime. The abundance of black athletes who are playing skill positions makes it easier to recruit for southern teams. The opposite was true at one time regarding offensive and defensive linemen. Auburn and Alabama had many great linemen who were recruited out of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. There is a significant gene pool of big men of Scandinavian/Norwegian heritage in the northeastern states. That is not as important as it once was.
With the advent of integration, more black athletes, whose ancestors were actually bred for size, strength and stamina during the early days of the slave trade, have found a way to prosperity through college football all over the country. Check the rosters of any SEC school and you will find them there in abundance.The really good ones become millionaires in the NFL.
The average pay for head coaches in the other four power conferences is just over three million. The investment in football in the south is just greater than in other parts of the country. Head coaches in the SEC average over four million a year. Assistant coaches are paid more at SEC schools than many head coaches. Millionaires are serving as offensive or defensive coordinators in the SEC. The fans love it. The administrators want it. The Board of Trustees demand it!
College football is one of the south’s most successful and profitable businesses.
There are several important games on the opening weekend of college football;
Alabama/USC, Auburn/Clemson, Florida St./Ole Miss,
LSU/Wisconsin, Texas A&M/UCLA, Georgia/N. Carolina,
Oklahoma/Houston, Notre Dame/Texas.
All of the winners will be one step closer to the play-offs. The losers will have to scramble back into contention by not losing another game. This is the way I see the teams ending their regular schedule. Of course, the top four will be selected by the play-off committee in November.
Check with me in December!