The year is 2048. You are 20 years old. It’s a Saturday in the month formerly known as October, since rebranded as the Toyota Leaf-A-Thon Drive Month (when prices drop like the leaves used to!). Your alarm sounds at 8 a.m., welcoming you into the world with the song of the Aflac duck squawking. While you subconsciously absorb updates on their money-saving-yet-hyper-time-sensitive deals for all of your insurance needs, your mind wanders into the college football slate that awaits.

It’s Week 8 of the regular season, which means we’re almost halfway to the playoffs. Starting it off at noon, Ohio State takes on Alabama in Atlanta in the Chick-Fil-A Fan-Voted Game of the Week. At 3:30, Oklahoma and Florida State meet in Mexico City as part of the Below the Border Cheez-It Classic. Then at 7, Texas and Wisconsin will play in Chicago, which is where the Badgers relocated their football team in 2039 in an attempt to capture a larger fan base. To close it out, Clemson challenges USC from a free-standing athletic complex in the Amazon Smiles Atmosphere situated at an undisclosed location above the Pacific Ocean at 10:30 p.m.

You tap your temple to access any unread notifications and see that your dad messaged you: “Ethan, are you watching the Cal Stanford game tonight?”

“Ok, zoomer,” you think to yourself.

“No, I’d rather listen to you tell me about how great Twitter and Tik Tok used to be, dad. My favorite brands don’t even sponsor those games.”

Welcome to the future, brought to you by the loving people at Disney, FOX, the NCAA, and university administrations nationwide. USC, Iowa, and Maryland are soon to share the same conference, as are UCF, BYU, and Iowa State. Nothing is sacred but the pursuit of proliferating profits, and any illusions of other influences having much to do with anything at all are erased. The mask is off – the 2010s were for pretending, and the 2020s are for full-sending.

The precise way in which we arrived here was not set in stone. Nobody forced the Pac-12 to spend years actively undermining itself through arrogance and incompetence. The ACC currently exists because back in 2016, its members extended its Grant of Rights to 2036, a move any other league could make at any time. Political variables have influenced which conferences have risen and which have sunk, but this outcome was destined in the early 1980s.

The Supreme Court’s Role

It used to be that the NCAA controlled all college sports media rights. Out of fear that mass broadcasting would negatively impact game attendance, CBS and ABC were allowed to air 14 games each per season, and no team could be broadcast more than once in a campaign. By 1979, some schools were getting frustrated with this setup and tried to make their own way, forming the College Football Association (CFA). Members of the ACC, Big Eight, SEC, SWC, WAC, and independents like Notre Dame, Penn State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and the service academies joined the CFA. In 1981, the CFA negotiated its own TV agreement with NBC separate from the one the NCAA had with ABC and CBS that it declared no one was allowed to breach. The NCAA threatened severe sanctions in all sports on any school that dared defy its monopoly. Georgia and Oklahoma took the NCAA up on its bluff.

After years, the case made its way to the Supreme Court, where the justices ruled in favor of the challenging universities in 1984. In a 7-2 decision, the court found that the NCAA was in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, which aimed to curb cartels from manipulating markets and restricting free trade. Thus, the floodgates were open.

In the dissenting opinion, Justice Bryon R. White wrote that the court got it all wrong in NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma.

“Although some of the NCAA’s activities, viewed in isolation, bear a resemblance to those undertaken by professional sports leagues and associations, the Court errs in treating intercollegiate athletics under the NCAA’s control as a purely commercial venture in which colleges and universities participate solely, or even primarily, in the pursuit of profits,” he wrote. “Accordingly, I dissent.

“The NCAA’s member institutions have designed their competitive athletic programs ‘to be a vital part of the educational system,’” he continued. “Deviations from this goal, produced by a persistent and perhaps inevitable desire to ‘win at all costs,’ have in the past led, and continue to lead, to a wide range of competitive excesses that prove harmful to students and institutions alike. In pursuing this goal, the organization and its members seek to provide a public good – a viable system of amateur athletics – that most likely could not be provided in a perfectly competitive market.”

Once the artificial dam was removed, the gravity of capital pulled the momentum downhill with no rails to slow or guide its path. The NCAA, steadfast in its unwillingness to compromise whatsoever on anything ever, had been rendered useless. The CFA became obsolete over the next decade as conferences found it more fruitful to forge deals themselves. Independence became less common as schools chased bigger TV contracts in conferences. Schools leaped around to wherever the money was greener.

The inevitable, as Justice White predicted, arrived and shows no sign of stopping. The NCAA is long beyond an ability to do anything, and the power that the schools and conferences wrestled from the NCAA has now been voluntarily handed to a third party: the networks.

With essentially zero oversight, the conferences and networks have worked in tandem to make college football, the prized pig of college athletics, as lucrative for themselves as possible. We’ve reached the point where Murdochs are publicly celebrating conference realignment.

“We just think these additions will only strengthen our college football franchise across Fox Sports, but particularly our partnership – and it is a partnership – in the Big Ten Network,” Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch said during a quarterly earnings call on Tuesday. “We think it’s very positive for us across the board.”

This is major intercollegiate athletics in 2023. It’s not the players, coaches, NCAA, nor even the administrators that chart its future course, but the short-term interests of corporate shareholders.

Manufacturing Consent

That’s not news to anyone who has paid attention for much time at all, but the erosion of anything sacred has progressed rapidly. Conferences expanding outside of their geographic footprint was viewed skeptically as little as 10 years ago. Now, a sizable portion of fans cheer as schools ditch century-old conferences to instead travel three time zones. The shark has been jumped, stabbed, and left gasping for air at a non-descript beach.

The networks have had a hand in this cultural acceptance of the sport’s heart being violently ripped from its chest. Talking heads like Colin Cowherd can’t wait to tell you how much better it will be when Oregon is playing in Ann Arbor rather than Corvallis. Disney and FOX know what’s in your best interest, and it isn’t historic, local rivalries that fans like you have a personal relationship with – it’s the biggest schools, or “brands,” as they now like to self-identify, playing in must-watch events that just to happen to air on their networks. What an incredible coincidence!

The networks will manufacture consent through any means possible, and it will work. When Maryland left the ACC for the Big Ten a decade ago, the ACC united in lambasting the Terps for abandoning their charter conference and storied series with many of the members. Now, a portion of the league – the ones that are the most likely to have a landing spot post-ACC explosion – is trying everything short of a military coup to get out of the Grant of Rights before 2036. Each of those fan bases has a noticeable contingent counting down the days until their brand can follow in the footsteps of the traitorous Terrapins.

Fans are scared that their school will be left behind. They’ve been hit over the head with messaging that resoundingly declares that it’s the cool kids’ table or bust. Everybody who’s anybody will be there. All the money is in the SEC and Big Ten, and you have to have a piece of that, or else. It’s every man for himself, and if that means North Carolina doesn’t play Duke anymore, well, that’s just the price of getting paid.

A Solution to a Non-Existent Problem

Before NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, there was still college football. There was pretty good college football, too. Some great games, great teams, and great rivalries happened before the mid-1980s. The seams on the pants of administrators and head coaches weren’t holding on for dear life, and you couldn’t sit on your couch and watch all the action from a skycam while simultaneously scrolling through stats and trolling Reddit game threads, but the Iron Bowl didn’t mean any less.

Even well after the Supreme Court ruling, before conference realignment had truly kicked into overdrive and brought us these modern monstrosities, college football was great. It had regional flair, deep rivalries that meant more than anything else, and the grandeur only available in the American outskirts where this specific style of football thrives. In the 1990s and 2000s, attendances were high, fans were in love with the sport, and its uniqueness shined. Entropy is law, and there were other avenues that required updating, but popularity and conference structures were never problems.

Put more bluntly: college football, let alone college sports, never needed this.

I feel comfortable asserting that if a vote had been held in 2005 among fans, players, and coaches, to enshrine the West Virginia-Pittsburgh, Kansas-Missouri, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, Oregon-Oregon State, Notre Dame-Purdue, and many other local and long-standing rivalries like them into law, it would have overwhelmingly won. Even if you held that same vote in 2023, I think it would win, though nowhere near as comfortably.

That’s because none of this is necessary. Those rivalries, the Rose Bowl, and college sports being something you shared intimately with those in your nearby area of the country are what made it possible for the networks to exploit in the first place. Those nuances are what drove fans to the stadiums, made people purchase cable packages, and engaged millions in irrationally tying their emotions to 19-year-olds they’ve never personally met.

But that’s not enough for the networks, who need ever-increasing profits to appease shareholders. There must be more. There must always be more. Sustainability be damned, there must be more.

And so it will be that simply adding schools to your conference is not enough. By embracing its newest members, the Big Ten has locked down such mouthwatering matchups as USC at Ohio State and Michigan at Oregon. But for every slam dunk, there’s a Rutgers at Illinois and Maryland at UCLA. The initial windfall of cash will satisfy for a short while, but remember, there must always be more.

Why do Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Alabama, Florida, and LSU need Purdue, Northwestern, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Missouri, and South Carolina? When a network signs a broadcasting deal with a conference, they’re not paying extra for Vanderbilt, but the Commodores are taking a cut of the cash – a cut of the cash that Georgia could be eating instead. Penn State-Indiana isn’t capturing a national audience, but what about Penn State-Florida State? I can hear the money printing.

It won’t get there immediately. First, the ACC will die a painful, expensive death, perhaps financed by JPMorgan Chase or one of the other few certainly-benevolent organizations in the world that have the capital to lend. Once the SEC, Big Ten, and Big 12 have picked those bones dry, that cycle will have to run its course for a bit before the biggest brands decide they could have even more if they trimmed the fat. Whether that’s through expulsion or secession, the end result will be the same. They will create their own governing body and operate autonomously from the rest of the ecosystem.

With that, the final form of NFL Junior is born, spanning from the Pacific to the Atlantic in a truly-national top division of college football. The format will mirror the NFL’s, with a long regular season leading to a long playoff. Tickets are affordable for the affluent only. Jersey sponsors. Digital advertising overlaid the field during broadcasts. More, more, more.

Left Out or Spared?

Football will not end on outcast campuses, nor will athletics as a whole. Wake Forest won’t stop playing basketball, Boise State won’t stop playing football, and both will need opponents. Without money pouring everywhere, trekking time zones won’t make sense. New leagues made of misfits will form based more on regionality and culture than streaming contracts and brand recognition.

Those operating in the world of abundance will pity and mock the leftovers, viewing them as lost souls shuffling around in purgatory while shaking a rusty tin can for hope of a better future. All of the fame, glamour, and glitz will be with the big boys, not the sad sacks in Ames, Iowa, or Oxford, Mississippi. It must be worse – they have less. Less to market, less to sell, less to monetize. And isn’t that why we all became college football fans in the first place?

Let the casuals go with the wind. They, along with the Ohio State, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, and Michigan fans, can enjoy paying Disney $139.99 per season to stream every game of their megaconference’s regular season, another $149.99 for FOX’s megaconference slate, and an additional $99.99 to Disney for the full playoff package. Then they can tell everyone else how much better off they are.

Maryland is my alma mater. I started my undergrad at College Park in the school’s final ACC year. I watched the university transition from its original home with neighbors nearby to a foreign collective with no connection to almost everyone. Maryland football has rarely ever been good, and certainly not much recently. That was true in the ACC, and it has remained true in the Big Ten. But at least in the ACC, when our mediocre selves went up against Virginia, North Carolina State, or Duke, it meant something, even if it registered nothing on the national scale. Now in the Big Ten, the Cavs, Wolfpack, and Blue Devils have been swapped for the Hoosiers, Hawkeyes, and Cornhuskers, and nothing has any meaning at all.

Celebration is the appropriate response from fans of schools left out of this infestation of greed that will continue to constrict its circle and eat college sports alive. Be glad your alma mater, your hometown school, the place that means so much to you, won’t have its fabric torn to shreds over an empty pursuit. No, you won’t compete for the biggest prizes, you won’t play in massive stadiums, and you won’t be broadcast on popular channels. Instead, you’ll have a community, a purpose, and something to identify with that represents a cause greater than purse packing.

In the short term, this will work. The money will flow and grow for the haves as they run further from the have-nots. But can a sport based mostly in the South, Great Plains, and Midwest and outside of cities already controlled by the NFL have long-term viability with this model? Can a sport that grew organically through regionality and being different see those same results by being the same? Is replicating something that can never be surpassed a path to sustainable success?

The cable model is dying. It will take many years more for the tens of millions of cable subscribers to reach unnoticeable numbers, but it will happen. Live sports are the only thing still drawing people to broadcast TV and its streaming equivalents these days, thus ballooning the broadcasting rights contracts. When live sports inevitably move to individual streaming models, will Disney and FOX be able to sell their packages for the high prices they’ll have to charge thanks to the massive amounts they’re paying for the rights? If not, then will the cost of broadcast rights deflate, rendering this whole dance pointless?

The length that this charade will last is anyone’s guess, but it can only end in destruction – the unsustainability of grasping at infinite growth in a finite world guarantees it. The erosion of what sets college football apart is destruction in its own right, let alone the huge impacts these football-first decisions have on all other college sports. The suits will make out like bandits over the next few decades while the fans and athletes are robbed of more than just their money and labor.

When society peers in a puddle, it sees sports.


How are college football bowl games determined?

Only bowl-eligible teams are selected for College Football Bowls. At the NCAA Division I FBS level, the standard by which teams become available for selection in bowl games varies. For example, in 2018-19 season, the team had to have at least as many wins as overall losses. Wins against non-Division I teams do not count toward the number of wins.

How do you play college football pick'em pools?

Simply pick winners from the games each week selected by the Pool Commissioner, either straight up or against the spread. Whichever member has the most points at the end of the season wins

What is a football pool?

"Football Pool" is a broad term for a group of people competitively guessing the outcome of one or more football games. There are many types of formats, each assigning winners differently. They can be played informally between friends or through a more formalized system. They are often considered a great alternative to fantasy football given the ease of playing, although there are fantasy football pools as well.

How to run a football pool?

How you decide to run a football pool varies greatly depending on the game type. In each case, however, you'll want to determine the rules and settings before you begin inviting members to join you. You'll want to clearly establish how score will be kept, how tiebreakers work, and how winners are decided before anything else.

How to play squares football pools?

Football squares are played by creating a grid, in which Team 1 takes the column and Team 2 the rows. In some cases, participants may claim as many squares as they like. In others, commissioners limit them to one. At the quarter times and end of the game, the winner is decided at the point the scores final digit intersect.

How do you setup a college football bowl pool?

To set up a college football bowl pool, you'll need to first choose if you will include all the games or specific ones. Then, you'll need to set the ground rules. As commissioner, you'll implement rules to ensure everything runs smoothly during the bowl games. Many use pool sites like RunYourPool to make the process easier.

What is a college football squares pool?

In a college football squares pool, a commissioner starts with a 10x10 grid of 100 squares (though commissioners decide to use smaller 5x5 pools). Members pick one or more squares in that grid. Winners are determined based on the score of each team after each quarter and at the end of the game.

How many squares in a football pool?

In a traditional football squares pool, a grid is sectioned off into 100 squares with 10 columns and 10 rows. This accounts for a direct relationship between each possible digit from 0 to 9 on both the X and Y axis. For smaller square grids like 5x5, multiple numbers can be assigned to each column and row.

How to read a football squares pool sheet?

In Squares formats, football pool sheets include a grid, where one team is the column and one is the row. Winners are determined at the end of each quarter when the last number in the team’s score (on each side) is matched to the numbers on the grid, and the intersecting square wins.

How do you setup a college football bowl pool?

To set up a college football bowl pool, you'll need to first choose if you will include all the games or specific ones. Then, you'll need to set the ground rules. As commissioner, you'll implement rules to ensure everything runs smoothly during the bowl games. Many use pool sites like RunYourPool to make the process easier.

How do you win college football confidence bowl pool?

The winner of a college bowl confidence pool is the member with the most points after all games have ended. Members rank each game based on how confident they are in their pick (44 points = most confident, 1 point = least confident). For each game picked correctly, members receive the number of points they assigned.

What is a college football bowl confidence pool?

Players try to pick the winner of every bowl game, assigning a point value to each game. Picks are made "straight up," not using a point spread system. Members rank each game based on how confident they are (44 points = most confident, 1 point = least confident). A winner is determined by totalling the point values assigned to correctly picked games.

How do you setup a college football bowl pool?

To set up a college football bowl pool, you'll need to first choose if you will include all the games or specific ones. Then, you'll need to set the ground rules. As commissioner, you'll implement rules to ensure everything runs smoothly during the bowl games. Many use pool sites like RunYourPool to make the process easier.

How do you win college football bowl pick'em pool?

As you might expect, the player who selects the most bowl winners will win their pick'em pool. You can win your college football bowl pick'em pool by choosing winners wisely, based on past performance, player starting status and other "intangibles."

What is a college football bowl pick'em pool?

In a College Bowl Pick'em pool members attempt to pick the winner of every College Bowl game (or a subset of games determined by the Pool Commissioner). Picks are made using the point spread system or "straight up", as assigned by the Pool Commissioner.


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