It’s all happening as we speak, as the Earth shifts beneath our cleats and reconfigures our continent.
I’m not talking about all those things you’ve seen on the front page. No, we are talking about a long-term reform of everything we ever knew or at least thought we knew.
Correct, college football as we know it is disappearing and inevitably seems to reappear as something that, on any given Saturday, looks as it always looked at the field level, but drastically revised from above.
It’s painfully obvious, but apparently easy to overlook. It started with a short email from a reader named Donnie asking my opinion on Notre Dame’s football future while suggesting that the Irish are key to how the new hash-marked continent will be formed.
I initially rejected the drama and was then shown the fault of my contemptuous ways. So I went around for additional information, a lot of smart people tracking these things all year round rather than just, you know, football season.
And it turns out it’s probably true. Notre Dame could perhaps determine whether the college football landscape remains even remotely manageable the way it has always been managed — SEC, Big Ten, Pac 12, Big 12, ACC, and then the others.
The thinking is that Notre Dame won’t be able to maintain its football independence and give away financial benefits to the behemoths in the recently expanded Big Ten (soon with UCLA and USC) and SEC (soon with Oklahoma and Texas).
Moreover, according to conventional wisdom and our own eyes, if the SEC or Big Ten lands at Notre Dame, the two “super” conferences would likely continue to collect extra shiny satellites (Clemson, Oregon, Oklahoma State, etc.) if the Big Bang eventually leaves us with a “league” that includes two conferences, while the rest are left to play for berths at the famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Assuming you think we need to be saved from that, “they” say we’re only saved if Notre Dame ends up in the ACC, thus saving that conference by keeping the better brands at home. The next best option, especially for romantics, is for the Irish to remain independent, but to do so would require them to give up a whole lot (and a lot) of extra network money in the future.
“If you’re a fan of any ACC, Big 12, Pac-10, or Group of 5 program, the time has come to do the unthinkable: cheer, cheer for the old Notre Dame,” writes Alex Hickey. SaturdayTradition.com.
The advent of the transfer portal and NIL capabilities brought free agency to college football. The vast majority of onlookers – especially in the media – applauded both new toys. The old-fashioned romance of the old college game, they’d tell you, went to the grave with Keith Jackson.
Others waited for the unintended consequences of completely rebuilding the infrastructure without attaching crash barriers first. Didn’t take long, did it?
Suddenly, piling so much independence and financial opportunity into the laps of 18-to-20s (and their interested friends and family) might have been the right choice, but the current details and issues are a bird’s nested fishing reel.
The great universities and now the most important conferences have joined in the dismantling of old customs. In a hold-my-beer moment, they’ve seemingly decided to show us just how much landscape you can change when you trade in billions and not just millions.
Twenty years ago, when NASCAR landed its first wall-to-wall network TV deal, the growing revenue stream quickly became a tidal wave for all major players. I asked a longtime team owner if he ever feared a Jed Clampett outcome — that the re-influx could do more harm than good over time.
“I’ve had the problem of not having enough money,” Richard Childress told me with a knowing smile. “I’d rather have this problem.”
But boy oh boy, sometimes you wonder.
— Reach Ken Willis at [email protected]
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Notre Dame holds all the cards as college football world falters