As USC and UCLA to the Big Ten prove once again, college football is no longer the sport we knew

Aging is a continuous process of saying goodbye to everything you know. You say goodbye to relatives, friends, work, hobbies, and eventually everything you ever cared enough to notice. Sometimes it’s by choice, whether you made it or someone else did it. Other times it is out of your control.

Whatever the case, you say goodbye. On Thursday, we said goodbye to the Big Ten we once knew.

Many of us have been in love with college football since we were young. For yours truly, it’s been since the age of 12. As a child of parents who did not attend college, this was not a sport I was born into – much different than how I was raised to follow the Bears, Bulls and White Sox.

My love for college football developed organically – coming home from church on Saturday afternoons on cool, gray days in the fall, going to my bedroom, turning on the TV and watching a football game on one of the few channels available. That’s where my passion for the Big Ten was born.

In Chicago, we have one or two Big Ten games a week, usually involving Ohio State or Michigan. Those teams — and Notre Dame — were usually the only ones you saw. Through those games, a relationship was drawn with the Big Ten — every team, not one or two. The different uniforms, stadiums, groups and traditions were appealing. When I started high school, the goal was to go to a Big Ten university.

As college football became more readily available on television, this love of the Big Ten spread to the other conferences with their own uniforms, stadiums, groups and traditions. Yet the Big Ten was always where it started.

It was at the center of it all when college football turned from a hobby into a career, even as my consumption and perspective on the sport changed dramatically. Writing and covering college football forces one to come face to face with the drastic changes the sport has gone through, especially in the last decade. These goodbyes were expected and shared.

Yet, through it all, the foundation of the old Big Ten and its traditions remained. When Nebraska joined the conference, that didn’t change that a lot; it seemed like a natural fit geographically and culturally. When Maryland and Rutgers stepped in, it was only a matter of time before the conference became unrecognizable.

Enter USC and UCLA.

One doesn’t have to be a Big Ten fan to know that this change is far from superficial.

With more and more changes coming by the minute — changing most of what we’ve come to love about the sport — college football seems to be college football in name only these days. It’s quickly getting closer to a professional sports league than whatever our ideal of it was a few years ago when some much-needed changes were in the works.

Cynics will say that college football has always been about money, only now is the facade completely stripped away. There is much truth in this view, even if it is an overly simplistic perspective.

More often than not, that opinion comes from those in our industry who get a closer look at how the sausage is made. However, those who buy the finished product know only that it tastes delicious in the end. Now they worry if it will taste the same again. And that feeling is much easier to empathize with now.

How will college football be viewed in the future? It is impossible to know how 2.0 version of the sport just starting to program. Will we continue to enjoy it? I don’t doubt that. But it will never be the same.

So, I guess that’s goodbye to College Football 1.0 … and hello to whatever comes next.

Leave a Comment