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January 16, 2024
One thing is certain: change is constant. However, the changes engulfing college and professional sports the last few years are troubling to say the least.
College sports have been ravaged by the effects of the NCAA Transfer Portal and the NIL rule, which essentially pays the better players to play. Together, the two have opened up a Pandora’s box that may be difficult to close.
Danny Ford, former head football coach at Arkansas and Clemson, told Farm Press last summer that these changes will eventually make college sports unrecognizable from what fans have loved over the years. Ford, now a farmer in South Carolina’s Upstate, is prescient in his observations, but the pace of change seems to be accelerating at a faster clip this winter.
The transfer portal, which now seems to be propelled to a degree by the NIL program, is giving headaches to coaching staffs as they go about their annual offseason roster management. And it’s certainly causing considerable consternation among fans. It’s also making a mockery of bowl games. For example, there’s also the issue of “opt-outs” such as what resulted in Georgia blowing out Florida State 63-3 with many of FSU’s starters deciding not to play for assorted reasons. What happened to loyalty?
College stars, especially quarterbacks, are entering the portal with demands of receiving millions of dollars in NIL money.
The genie is out of the bottle and not likely to be put back in, but the NCAA needs to get a handle on this before the sport becomes unwatchable and make some kind of modifications to get this under control. Several veteran college coaches, particularly in basketball, saw the handwriting on the wall a few years ago and elected to retire.
While I am on this rant, it behooves me to mention the escalating costs of going to games. The regular fan is getting priced out of attending games. Most regular season SEC games of any consequence now cost $100 and up for a ticket. Parking has become ridiculous at many schools with spaces going for $50 and $60. In my conversation with Ford, he told me that rising costs are resulting in the common man being excluded from games. He’s right.
Looking at professional sports, the story is much the same. Skyrocketing player salaries have pushed ticket prices into the stratosphere. Good seats for a Major League baseball game, if you can find them, are more than $100. Spending $700 million for one player like the Dodgers did recently, is absurd. Where will this all end? These types of salary escalations can’t be sustainable.
Perhaps I will just go back to the original way I consumed college sports and professional baseball: listening to games on the radio as I did as a kid many years ago. I still enjoy doing that and it’s good for the imagination.
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