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Will Latest Expansion Cause CFB Fans To Say "I've Had Enough"?

Euphemisms can be a funny thing.

Comedian George Carlin put together a whole bit on euphemistic language back in his prime, and while that segment isn’t appropriate to link to, you can find it on YouTube as he cuts through the spin and tells you what the words really mean. I mention this because if Carlin were alive today, he undoubtedly would include the latest euphemism being funneled into our brains - “market forces” - which is essentially a replacement for people wanting to make more money.

This is certainly true when it comes to college football and the seismic news that both Southern California and U-C Los Angeles are joining the Great Lakes Conference Big Ten in 2024.

The Big Ten’s annexation of the two largest brands in California is just the latest in the Big Ten and SEC’s war on college football as we know it. And if the war continues in the direction it is going, the entire sport will devolve into a fiscal free-for-all that assuredly will destroy the college football that we know and love.

Think about this — what was the original purpose of a conference anyway? It seems to me that it provided schools nearby like-minded opponents that could be used as a way to elevate each institution’s national profile. Virginia Tech benefits from playing Clemson, Wake Forest benefits from playing North Carolina and Northwestern benefits from playing Michigan.

These conferences, originally organized mostly along geographic lines, kept travel costs down and more importantly, allowed programs to develop rich rivalries that galvanized fans all year long.

Michigan and Ohio State need each other. North Carolina and Duke need each other. As much as the Hokies might hate to admit it, Tech needs Virginia.

These are the match-ups that generate the necessary love and hate that drives collegiate athletics. Virginia Tech fans don’t get much of a buzz watching the Hokies play Furman, Boston College, or even Oklahoma State. But Miami, Virginia and North Carolina? You can bet that a Tech fan is anxious over those match-ups every year.

That entire setup goes away when schools like USC and UCLA pull themselves away from the likes of Washington, Stanford and Oregon in favor of Northwestern, Minnesota and Illinois.

I mean, how has moving to the Big Ten worked for Maryland? How about Rutgers? Maryland football makes no impact nationally and Rutgers’ hopes of ever winning a Big Ten title involve a biblical miracle.

Maryland’s and Rutgers’ decisions to join the Big Ten were entirely motivated by money and increased media rights revenue. How’s that revenue helping the program, when neither of them are consistently making an impact on a national level and have little hope of ever doing so?

To bring the issue closer to home, how do these moves impact a school like Virginia Tech, which doesn’t benefit from being in a large media market? Sure, plenty of Hokies alumni live in Washington D.C. and Charlotte, but nobody seems to be clamoring to add a school in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains in a town of 44,000 people. Tech has found success in a variety of sports over the last several years — but that doesn’t make them an attractive candidate for the larger conferences.

So what happens if Virginia Tech remains in the ACC? How can the ACC prevent from falling any further behind the Big Ten and SEC, both of whom enhance their media rights package every few years with attractive additions? Does Virginia Tech become a second-class citizen in college football, the sport that drives the majority of Tech’s fanbase?

History has shown thousands of times over the years that just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD. At what point do the folks who have their hands on the proverbial wheel of college athletics stop focusing on what can be achieved and instead focus on what should be achieved?

While the television executives, conference commissioners and university leaders sit at the switches of power, the fans are ultimately the ones in control. Fans influence the sport every time they turn on a college football game or every time they sign up for a streaming service. Fans exert their power with their dollars, and we are approaching a moment when the fan must ask a question and come up with their own answer.

What do we want college athletics to be, and what are we willing to do in order to make it so?

My general feeling is that the average fan doesn’t want two large conglomerates of conferences comprised of the biggest names in the sport drowning the schools in the middle and preventing them from ever reaching the mountain top. But fans have tolerated that slow lurch to a certain extent already — Alabama, Ohio State and schools like them have already used their influence to create a structure that makes it more difficult for the average school to get ahead.

What more are the fans willing to tolerate? How many years of Alabama vs. Ohio State or Clemson vs. Oklahoma are you, the college football fan, willing to watch? How many more years are you, the college football fan, willing to see the same group of teams make the College Football Playoff?

And maybe the clearer question is this — how much longer are you, the college football fan, willing to let ESPN and FOX and NBC decide the future of the sport? When will the fan step in and say enough is enough?

College football didn’t become one of the most beloved sports in America because of “market forces”. It’s something far deeper than that, and those things are worth preserving.

Until the average fan makes their voice heard and advocates for a different approach, the suits will continue using the euphemistic language that they love so dearly.

I'll just be frank and say, “I’ve had enough.”

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Friday, 12 August 2022

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Ricky LaBlue

Ricky LaBlue

A longtime sports fanatic, Ricky is now channeling that passion into the world of sports media. Meet Ricky LaBlue.

Stephen Newman

Stephen Newman

The only things he loves more than following Virginia Tech and Washington sports teams are dogs. Meet Stephen Newman.

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