It’s Monday, and at long last we have an actual football game coming up on Saturday.
College football’s offseason has, over the years, become more and more intolerable, and it’s not because nothing happens — it’s because too much happens. It’s weird to say this as somebody who runs a Vanderbilt sports blog, but I hate what has happened to the offseason. I’m not somebody who really enjoys following the ins and outs of recruiting, of worrying about how the decisions of today’s 17-year-olds will affect my team’s fortunes in a few years. It’s always felt more like something I need to know than something I want to know.
And now we’ve added a full-on free agent season on top of that. And fretting about television deals, and the state of the facilities, and how the SEC plans to accommodate 16 teams in its league schedule.
College sports are changing, because all sports are changing, and most of these changes (if not all of them) are bad for the fans. Whatever your thoughts about NIL and the free transfer rule, whether they’re good for the players or not (and they are), I liked the days when a breakout freshman campaign meant that you simply didn’t have to worry about a spot on the field for a couple of years. Now, whatever players in Clark Lea’s first signing class have a good performance in 2022, we’re probably going to have to worry about whether they’ll enter the transfer portal after the season — not because they’re unhappy, but because that’s the brave new world where players who aren’t unhappy leave the program anyway.
I liked when the SEC went from 1991 to 2012 without changing its membership, without having to worry about scheduling “pods” or how to make sure you played other teams in the conference often enough.
It always feels very hot take-y to say that money has ruined sports, but it’s mostly true, because what I enjoy as a sports fan is often fundamentally at odds with what’s the most profitable thing for television companies, athletic departments, coaches, and athletes. The college football that existed in 1991 or even 2005 was less profitable for everybody involved, but it was a lot more fun. It was a world where I could tune out college football from January — maybe February if you really cared about signing day — to August.
(Does all this make me an old curmudgeon? Probably.)
So it’s nice to have games back this week, and to forget about all the other bullshit that the offseason has become. All hail actual football.