You might have read some of my science fiction sports stories, either as standalone short stories or collected in Galactic Olympics. One of the themes that my sports stories explore is the tension between love of the game and love of money.
College football used to be about love of the game. That’s where all those traditions emerged, from rivalry games like the Bayou Bucket to students in the bleachers standing to emulate the 12th Man . I have fond memories of sneaking into the Houston Astrodome in 1990 or ’91 to catch the last minutes of Rice’s upset victory of cross-town rival University of Houston… and get into seats just in time for Andre Ware to throw two touchdowns in a few minutes to send the Owls to defeat.
But it’s been obvious for decades that love of money has gained the whip hand. Universities conference-hop for more TV contract money. Athletes transfer every year for more playing time (and the prospect of name-image-likeness money now and a higher NFL draft pick later). You can’t deny it. Everyone’s in it for Mammon.
In the latest example of conference hopping, three Pac-12 universities will join the Big 12 next year. This will bring the Big 12 up to sixteen member universities spread from West Virginia to Arizona. (Anyone else remember the Big 8? When every member was from a state that bordered Kansas or Nebraska?)
In the Big 12’s defense, it had to make up for the defection of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC. And Texas had to defect, because Texas A&M’s jump ten-ish years ago to the SEC meant the Aggies had more cachet to recruit players from within Texas. And the Aggies jumped to the SEC because….
Remember when college football wasn’t a cross between a soap opera and the negotiations that led to World War II?
But the thing about the lust for money is, it doesn’t get sated. Because it isn’t the absolute amount of money that motivates the universities and the players to jump ship—it’s getting more money than the other guy. And that’s never going to stop, not until the fans stop caring or the NFL goes all in on supporting minor league football. (The NFL might run into a similar problem in a few years).
Assuming, though, college football doesn’t hit the for a while, here’s my prediction:
By 2023, the top ten or twelve college football programs will abandon the SEC, Big 10, and Big 12, the current winners in conference roulette, and start a new superconference.
Believable? Crazy? Check back here on August 5, 2033 and we’ll discuss.