BY GRIF PRITCHARD
SPECIAL TO THE ELMORE/AUTAUGA NEWS
You look for patterns and themes in your daily life, really in the world around you. For as much of a craptastic carnival of carnage that 2020 has become once you parse down through the political rhetoric, the rising ‘rona numbers and deaths, the perpetually offended and the “peaceful protests” one key theme remains: Change.
Change in the way we live our lives. Change in the way we perceive the news. Change in the way we approach work and play. And apparently the most important aspect of change – in the way we view sports.
The professionals stopped and then started and now it looks like the one ray of sunshine in this grey sky morning, according to the pundits, college football may be on the brink of noping out of the 2020 season.
I know .. Crying .. Wailing .. Gnashing of teeth … Notre Dame and Central Florid claiming the vacant 2020 National Championship. The University of Alabama’s number of titles increases by one … mysteriously.
Since we are more than likely going to be confronted by a season of Saturdays free of SEC football, I’ve been spitballing a list of three or so changes I’d like to see for the 2021 season.
Let’s start with the most obvious – A new NCAA Football video game.
I realize the hold-up is money. It all comes down to money. Players for years were uncompensated for the use of their likenesses because they were collegiate athletes and according to the NCAA, collegiate athletes are considered amateurs and must maintain that status to compete. The only thing amateur about these kids is their age. They are treated and celebrated and promoted like rockstars. Now, this is not me trying to sound like an old, graying, fat guy sportswriter jealous of youth. This is a realistic view of the way the college football landscape has changed over the course of the last 20 years. Now the idea of compensating college athletes comes in two trains of thought: One being that they are given a free ride and access to a high-level college education and their scholarship should be pay enough; the train of thought leaving from the other station says that compensating college athletes is a fantastic idea, but you have to pay for more than the football players and more than likely that compensation would come from the money generated by the football programs. Volleyball, baseball, softball and field hockey just don’t draw enough individually to carry their own pales up the hill to the paywindow.
I’m not here to debate either point, I’m here ultimately to say figure it out because there are several who are hanging on to a PS3 just to be able to play NCAA14.
And while we are at it, let’s look at creating the position of College Football Czar or Chieftain or El Jefe and a players association and take it out of the hands of a guy who has probably never even put on a girdle … calm down Baptists .. A football girdle.
One of the key elements of bringing the professionals back was the leadership of their designated commissioners and the players’ delegates coming to the table and agreeing on the landscape that ultimately going to lead to both a season for the fans and a paycheck for the players. In this scenario – your player’s association would be your conference commissioners and a handful of Athletic Academic All-Americans, further securing the board is fair and even across the table.
With time comes reflection and Point 3 is simply to look at the rules of the game and figure out a clear and concise understanding of them. Targeting, for instance, is a great example. Now I’m not talking about the cheap hits where a tight end gets blindsided and wakes up looking out of the earhole of his helmet. I’m talking about the more physical crashes that happen over the course of the game.
In the SEC the fellas bring the thunder on most tackles and that’s not playing dirty that’s pure physics: a 6-foot-2, 246-pound outside linebacker with sub-4.6 speed running on an angle to tackle a low-crossing wide receiver is going to result in a glorious collision and an instant “oooohhhhhh” from the crowd.
In the South, 5-Star speed plus mass colliding with another 5-Star of matching stature equals BOOMSHAKALAKA.
Also known as not-targeting. In the Big 10 and Big 12 where you don’t have those types of athletes, any type of collision that results in the sound of pads clapping is considered targeting. But those leagues are five years away from padded flag football anyway so there’s that. Also look at some of the rules used by the XFL, the kickoff and the forward motion and double-pass would be fun to see utilized by some of the whizbang offensive coordinators throughout the country.
One of the benefits of the ‘rona is the way the conferences have approached scheduling. SEC is playing 10 conference games which is great for everyone except for Mizzou who now adds LSU and Alabama to their schedule and Arkansas who, according to their AD, will play the “toughest schedule in the history of college football.” That for what you will. But ACC is playing 11 games and this move to a conference only schedule gives schools incentive to join a conference or .. Cancel their season. UCONN in their first year as an independent canceled their season. The Golden DomeNation joined, of all things, the Atlantic Coast Conference because when I think the Atlantic Ocean – I think South Bend, Indiana.
Creating a 12-game schedule which is ultimately playing all of your conference opponents plus two to four non-conference opponents would revitalize the old adage of “anything can happen on any given Saturday” … I may have taken a little license with the phrasing.
This is also an opportunity to expand the College Football Playoff from a Final Four to a Sweet Sixteen with the conference championship games serving as de facto play-ins. Then fill out the rest of the bracket with the best of the rest and more than likely The Fightin’ Irish because they can be 0-5 and still in the discussion. Speaking of terrible football teams that need to just go away, my bonus fourth point – is one that could be a lot of fun: Promotion and Relegation.
The quick and dirty explanation is that basically you take the statistically most terrible FBS teams over the past 5 years (up to 16) and create an FCS conference out of those schools. After three seasons the schools that have succeeded will move up and the FBS teams who have failed will move down.
It works for the Premiere League. I’m fairly certain it would work for College Football. Until Ohio State or Alabama or Oklahoma falls on hard times and gets relegated to the Replacements League, and that’s a pill the big-money backers just can’t swallow.
Change is inevitable and will be incredibly interesting to see how things evolve as we move further and further into this unending game of Jumanji.
It’s that simple.
Grif Pritchard lives in Tallassee and is a longtime sports writer for our area.