Tim Brando of Fox Sports is a very dear friend and mentor.
I’ve known him since I got into this sports-media racket almost 38 years ago and he offered to help my broadcasting career along.
Curiously, I began my journey into print media. But his advice has been sage, even straddling the two worlds.
Last week, he posted a video blog, cautioning fans about the future of college football. There has been a steady drumbeat for separating the Power 5 teams from the rest of college football. The talking heads continue talk about a league that only includes teams from the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12 and Pac 12. That’s 65 total teams.
That would make up an entertaining division, but it also would leave out 63 teams in the FBS world. Brando correctly said that college football’s currency is its history.
Eliminating nearly half of the FBS teams would be devastating to the Group-of-5 teams. Why? There isn’t much interest in them to begin with.
Another thing, nobody pointed a gun at Appalachian State, MTSU, North Texas and Boise State and forced these teams to step up in a higher division, especially when they really don’t have facilities to stand at the highest plateau. To me, those programs aren’t really part of the big-time college football history.
Then there are teams like Memphis, Cincinnati, Miami-Ohio, Houston and several others who have been at the highest level of the sport and have enjoyed slivers of success, yet never did a lot to take that next leap. For example, Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium is a nice place to watch a game, but it only holds 35,000 or so. There are some Texas high school facilities bigger than that!
What were they waiting for? Now, we are in the big-money era of college football, and they want their piece of the pie? I’m not sure they’ve earned it.
There are those who believe every conference champion should earn a playoff spot as well as a handful of Group-of-5 programs.
Here’s an idea: how about including the best teams, irrespective of their conference status. Clearly, Alabama and Georgia were the best two teams last year, but Georgia didn’t even win its conference.
Cincinnati demonstrated why Group-of-5 teams don’t belong. The Bearcats, while good, lacked talent, depth and toughness to compete consistently with the upper echelon. Yes, they went on the road and beat Notre Dame, but, as we’ve seen, ND had been a toothless tiger under Brian Kelly, as LSU will soon find out.
So, what is the reality? College football is an ever-evolving phenomenon. When Oklahoma State left the Missouri Valley Conference in 1956, many warned of the impending demise of college football. The hand wringers have always been there.
For the moment, college football is fine, but in a state of perilous flux. Name/image/likeness deals may do more harm than good. Same can be said of the transfer portal. All of this remains to be seen.
Sadly, for you old schoolers, it’s not like it used to be, but then again, it never is.
Editor’s note: Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox radio show, which airs 4-6 p.m CT, Monday-Thursday on WRJB 95.9 FM, Camden, Tenn.