They say that after the Yankee Games, if you’re waiting on the platform at 153rd Street station in the Bronx, there’s a very good chance you’ll see Yogi Berra waiting next to you for the same train. In Brooklyn, perhaps Duke Snider or Jackie Robinson is standing at a bakery on Flatbush Street waiting for you.
I myself remember riding my bike to the home of the great Ken Hodge of Boston Bruin in Stoneham, Massachusetts and helping him unload groceries from his car. In those days, sports champions were still available, but with the increase in salaries, the distance between players and fans increased.
As this wealth gap grew, it was college sports that took its place. If there is no professional team nearby, chances are that there is still a college team accessible. Tickets were cheaper, one often didn’t have to drive very far, and there was a good chance some players would be connected to your area or play against local kids you know. Heck, maybe you went there or you had kids or parents who went there and the connections were tighter.
However, just as any old man standing on his porch and yelling at the clouds would tell you – those were the good old days.
Things have changed now for a long time, but slowly but surely the changes didn’t seem so drastic. There have always been things that make the campus feel like home.
However, in just over a year, the entire landscape of college sports has changed. Between the NIL, the conference reorganization and the transfer portal, the only thing that connects fans to teams is the shirts.
Nothing money is what will change the sport the most. Teams will have to have endowments to entice players, as people like Mark Cuban and Phil Knight have already made clear. There will be bidding wars, where players will earn a lot of money, and the college experience will include Ferraris, luxury apartments instead of bedrooms, and ramen noodles. How does a kid turn down a wing at UNLV’s Bellagio or a shoe deal with Nike in Oregon?
Now, I’ve always thought college athletes deserve a salary. Yes, they do get an education, but only a few get anything close to a “complete trip”. The hours of training, cinematography, conditioning, travel and games far exceed what athletes get for the true value of their time. But if that amount is not regulated, then what is given in academics and playing time will be decided rather than just how much money is.
I’m a fan of Purdue University and believe the academics and Purdue experience should make it a major recruiting agent, all things being equal. But I also believe that every other school in Power 5 brings a similar resume to the table and I hope the athletes make their decisions based on the school that matches their personal aspirations.
But we all know it’s all going to turn out to be money.
Schools understand that to generate this kind of competitive money — and with only a limited amount of seats to sell (maybe five home soccer games and 15 basketball) — the money must come from television revenue, and that means entry into new markets. For the Big Ten, that means Los Angeles, New York, and the mid-Atlantic rather than places like Iowa City, Madison, and Columbus. Knowing that, I still don’t plan on Saturday around UCLA against Minnesota because honestly, this looks like the Carquest Liberty Bowl in mid-October instead of December 29th.
I’m sure we’ll eventually get used to conference cross-country matches and people will wonder how we ever lived without a midweek tennis match at Stanford-Rutgers to determine the Big Ten Conference champion, but it won’t be. competition. It takes a long time to build a real competition. Penn State has been in the Big Ten for about 30 years and hasn’t really developed a real competition with OSU or Michigan.
For now, they’ve seen Notre Dame as the pin that will put full freefall to work on what happens with future mega-conference changes. Ultimately, ND independence can harm them. They’ll have to share their NBC money with the Big Ten teams or they won’t be eligible for a full share of the Big Ten’s money, but what are they really going to bring to the convention? I think the SEC would also love the money ND would bring in, but would the Irish want to see Georgia, Alabama, Texas and LSU as part of their core schedule.
Just like high school basketball, what once looked old now looks as ordinary as ever 25 years later. I think mega conferences and multi-million dollar nothing payments are here to stay and because of that, there are $9 hot dogs and $11 beer at Ross-Ade and Memorial Stadium.