Columnists have been writing throughout the summer about what is wrong with the current landscape of college football. They have told us that the NCAA football championship is a farce, that players are being paid under the table at major universities to play football, and coaches are throwing good college kids under the bus to further their careers. While many of these accusations are true, especially about the national championship game being a joke, it still doesn’t hurt the game of Division I football. Why is that?
Other sports don’t have the endurance of division I football. NCAA football division I football has endured scandals of point shaving, steroids, cheating, arrests, and underhanded officiating (Both in the polls, different conference officials, and the actual officials at the games). Yet, it seems that the public is more ready to forgive the flaws in the system of division I football.
Many writers have credited this forgiveness of college football to the actual major flaws in the system. Many have written that what makes the sport great is the corruption, the greed, and the flaws in the bowl system. They claim that these flaws cause people to talk about the game of college football, these flaws cause people to become passionate about the game, and these flaws shouldn’t be changed or else the game of college football would fail. These “sports” writers simply do not understand the sport of college football. The game of college is football is great in spit of the flaws in the system. Changing those flaws would simply make a great sport even better.
What really makes college football great is the fact that it might be the highest level of pure sports that a person can watch. The majority of college football players will never be paid for playing football. For most players college football is the highest level of football that they will play. Every year in college football there are a handful of elite players, those players that even a casual fan see are special. Those players are going to play in the NFL, and are simply enjoying the short time they are spending in NCAA football. The rest of the players are playing, more or less, for the love of the game of football.
Do the players get some compensation? Yes, they get a free education. Which for anyone that hasn’t looked lately is quite a large chunk of money. Do all the players have a romantic view of playing football, and truly love the game? Of course not. Many players simply look at it as a business, and feel that the NCAA is using them like interchangeable parts in the big business of college football. Yet, there are far too many good players and good stories in college football, and the good outweighs the bad.
There have been stories, and players that have shown what it means to be a collegiate athlete. These are the players who play by the rules of the NCAA, they make themselves better through hard work and sacrifice. These are the coaches and staff that understand that although they might be fired for losing, they accomplished greater things if their players are living honorable productive lives after graduation.
Fans sense what is great about the sport of college football, which is why they support it even in its current flawed and corrupt state. The students see the players walk among them, and although the players are the big men on campus they still have to go to the same classes and face the same challenges of a normal student.
There are players that understand what it means to exemplify what it means to be a student athlete. Eric Weddle, former Utah players, now San Diego Charger, was one of those players. Brandon Gaskins at BYU is currently one of those players. LaVell Edwards is one of the great coaches to pass on the legacy of good Division I football onto another generation, and Ron McBride, head coach of Weber State, is demonstrating he understands the purity of the game.
What other sport is there were every region has a team? What other sport has players which play on the team for at least four years? What other sport has given fans so many classic games, and upsets? What other sport allows all the teams to start, for the most part, equal, and allow a team to have a magical undefeated year? What other sport has produced so many local legends?
There is something special about the start of each college football season. It is important to remember the good about the sport, in order to be happy with what we see.
Sadly, the time of college football being the last alcove of pure collegiate sport is coming to a close as the greed grows in football. NCAA football is more likely headed towards paying players, more steroid scandals, more cheating, and even more conference elitism. All the average football fan can hope is that the sport, that we all love, can survive the stupidity of those currently at the helm of NCAA football. Let us enjoy what makes college football great, while it is still part of the game.