Where will college football go after 2022?

The reason for the supplication

This series of articles is not specifically about the Virginia Tech Hokies team. It’s meant to be an in-depth exploration of where college football seems to be headed as organized entertainment. You didn’t misread that, that is indeed the word ‘entertainment’. All sports are entertainment products and we fans pay money to watch young athletes play a game. In the world of collegiate athletics, that money then provides a certain level of funding to both support the program and primarily fund the education of student-athletes. As with anything that involves money, there are “good things” and “bad things” that must be balanced to make that primary mission of financing education. When that capital increases exponentially in a relatively short period of time, changes occur that are both unintentional and often detrimental to that stated mission.

College football spent most of the 20e Century in the humble to struggling category, where programs relied almost entirely on contribution and gateway. The advent and diffusion of wide distribution cable television and sports-specific networks with the ability to broadcast many games led to a radical shift that accelerated to “ridiculous speed” in the early 21st century.st century. For many programs in the Football Bowl Series (FBS) Division, Gate and Basic’s contributions were quickly consumed by lucrative television contracts powered by advertising revenue.

The big company that shouldn’t have become is getting bigger

The results of that huge deluge of cash have also been put to the test by another mounting legal wrinkle; Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) contracts for players. This was the result of a court decision that opened the door to a hodgepodge of state rules (from nothing to everything) governing players’ rights to market their NIL. This quasi-professionalization has already begun the process of distorting the trajectory of the natural changes that are in the making. It does this because in reality NIL is not entirely personal. NIL money currently depends on more than just the talent and fame of the player. It also depends on the location and prestige of the program the player is signed with. A program that exists in a state with generous NIL regulation will be more attractive to a player.

If you add in the television contract money, the NIL factor (which depends on both state law and team prestige) combined with the lavish court-induced transfer portal terms, has placed college football on an unregulated trajectory akin to an adventure game with no rules and no real end point.

start this party

All of this brings us to the reason why we are here. It’s a really good time to look at where college football is likely to go in the next decade. The process is unlikely to be even, nor is it likely to be well organized, especially in the early stages of evolution. Last year we took a journey through the phenomenon we called the Twilight Programs. Some of that analysis will be relevant here, but this is intended to break new ground.

Set out the path, because it’s full of stuff

The first article will focus on the structure of the actual leagues that make up FBS football, and how those leagues are changing very quickly. The second article (or articles since we have 10 formal conferences and a pile of independents) will look at what evolves and is proposed; extended playoffs, conference reshuffle, and the FBS’s spiky semi-pro vs. full amateur status. We will revisit the Knight Commission for additional topics from their extensive recommendations in that. The final article will be pure guesswork and a rational look at the potential appearance of college football around 2030.

We want you to make your voice heard too

We want your input and feedback, just like we got from the latest series on the future of the Hokies. There will be polls at the end of the articles and there will be a concluding article where the results will be reviewed to see if we can come to some sort of consensus on what exactly is happening.

This should be fun. So here’s the first question (we’ll revisit it with a poll repeat at the end).

opinion poll

Given what you know now, what answer do you think will be in 2030?

  • 0%

    College football won’t change much. Maybe some shifting of teams back and forth. The playoffs are extended. (8 teams?) There is simply too much money to motivate decisions.

    (0 votes)

  • 0%

    College football will see changes as TV contracts are renewed, players get NIL dollars, and professionalism rushes in. The FBS can’t choose between amateur or pro, and Congress gets involved.

    (0 votes)

  • 0%

    I just don’t know enough to really judge. Changes are in the works, but it looks like more of the same is happening.

    (0 votes)

  • 0%

    There’s a part of me that wants to care, but I’m just interested in my favorite show and having fun while they do it. Pro or not, it really won’t hit me.

    (0 votes)

0 votes total

Vote now

So we leave you with that poll, and some thought time on the first topic will be about the current structure of the FBS and the changes that are taking place immediately.

See you then. Don’t forget to vote, we’ll be comparing the notes and looking at the numbers in the series close. Comments are also encouraged.

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