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Analyze the new landscape of college football

For years, college football lacked parity.

The same teams are selected for the four-team college football playoffs — 13 different programs playing for all in the system’s eight years and only five reaching the title game in the past seven years.

Twice in the previous five seasons, the final was determined by SEC rivals Georgia and Alabama. The Pac-12 hasn’t been represented since 2017, and the Big 12 has missed the past two years. And it’s only getting worse now that the SEC has added two of the Big 12’s top programs – Oklahoma and Texas – and the Big Ten has poached USC and UCLA from the Pac-12, changes that for now will happen in 2025 and 2024, respectively.

“It’s the Power 2,” American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco told the Post, “and everyone else.”

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said college football is about the “Power 2” and “everyone else.”

Aresco called USC and UCLA starting for the Big Ten “a pretty big earthquake.” The replicas may not be complete either. Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren envisions his league having 20 teams at some point in the future. There have been reports that Oregon is interested in joining the central conference. It would simply leave big brands such as independent Notre Dame – as well as Florida State, Miami and the diminished ACC’s Clemson – out of the super leagues, creating a clear demarcation between haves and have-nots.

“Despite all the money pouring into college football, as evidenced by the new Big Ten contract, I still feel like the sport is heading towards an iceberg at some point,” said Paul Finebaum, college football analyst, historian and radio. show host for ESPN, told the Post in a phone interview. “What’s happening is just not sustainable, because now you basically have two super-conferences within the structure, and you can try to make the case that the rest of the sport matters. But I don’t think that’s really the case.

“You have the Big Ten and the SEC and there’s nobody else in that ecosystem.”

The Big Ten’s recent hit TV deal with FOX, CBS and NBC will pay up to $1.2 billion a year through 2030 and air its games in three different timeslots on Saturdays. The SEC is currently collecting $300 million from ESPN, a figure that could increase once Oklahoma and Texas join.

By having two conferences clearly superior to the rest of the country — in terms of on-field performance and revenue — college football risks further harming its already unbalanced product. Sports attendance has faced a decline, seven years of dwindling numbers. According to the NCAA, the sport’s 130 teams averaged 39,848 fans per game, the fewest since 1981. While some of that can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a concerning trend. .

regular participants in the college football playoffs, and the SEC and Big Ten (inserts) are now the clear power conferences in the sport.
Nick Saban’s Alabama teams have made regular appearances in the college football playoffs, and the SEC and Big Ten (inserts) are now the clear power conferences in sports.
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“This is probably the most critical time we’ve had in decades,” Aresco said. “This kind of consolidation [with two power leagues] really risk that the rest of the country will not be relevant. That’s what you can’t have. In the end, there will be less interest.

One possible solution could be an expanded playoff system that has been talked about for years, if the powers that be can get on the same page. The current system runs through 2025. In June 2021, a playoff task force recommended the 12-team expansion that would include the six highest-ranked conference champions and six overall teams determined by the committee’s rankings. selection.

But the playoff management committee, made up of the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, failed to reach unanimous agreement, and the plan was tabled. At a meeting in July, there was renewed optimism about an expansion deal, perhaps spurred by recent Big Ten additions. However, it is uncertain whether the new format – provided it can be agreed in the near future – can be implemented immediately.

“I don’t think college football can wait until 2026 to have an expanded playoff because we watch the games every day in the media,” Finebaum said. “It’s a sport in decline. Watch the ACC right now. Until not so long ago, it was considered one of the best football conferences around. Now they are extremely disadvantaged.

Automatic qualifiers could be a sticking point. The Big Ten and the SEC obviously don’t need it. Other leagues would certainly like them, if only as a selling point to rookies that they can still reach the biggest stage in the sport without playing in one of the two super leagues. Otherwise, the likes of the Pac-12, ACC, Big 12 and AAC may be fighting an uphill battle down a steep hill.

“That’s why Mike Aresco hits the table. You have to have automatic qualifying,” said Rick Neuheisel, former Washington and UCLA coach and SiriusXM college football analyst. [conference champions] be judged against the fourth and fifth place teams in the super two conferences. You must have automatic qualifications, like we do in the basketball tournament.

This is clearly a watershed moment in the sport. Super leagues are being created and other moves could be on the way. Lots of money is pouring in, as the name, image and likeness deals have shown no signs of slowing down. The transfer portal and the new rule that allows players to change schools once without missing a year have created even more chaos. The money and top players could all be funneled to two leagues that have nearly all of the top brands.

“It’s all TV driven, and it’s all ESPN and FOX driven, and that’s basically the battle line,” Finebaum said. “It’s not about college sports anymore. It’s more like something you’d see on Wall Street, a battle between Pepsi and Coke or Miller and Budweiser. This is where we are right now. It’s an incredibly strange place. I covered college football for 40 years and never saw it like this.


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