Ken Schreiber’s top 5 takes on the 2022 college football season
I’m thrilled to be back for our seventh season covering the national college football scene. While an end-of-season column always addresses the “health” of college football, the handwriting of its impending demise as we know it now calls for its immediate attention.
Once upon a time, conference affiliation was regional, and colleges with long histories and traditions were connected at the hip. Today, there are no more borders. Money and greed have replaced tradition and relationships as the drivers of all change and this will further erode the landscape as we know it.
Here’s my five-part analysis of what happened and what’s to come.
Expansion helps some, hurts others
With UCLA and USC leaving PAC 12 for greener pastures in the Big Ten, the Big Ten now stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. Does that make any sense? Geographically, no, but financially, yes. The same thing happened a year ago after Oklahoma and Texas announced they were leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. The Big 12 survived (at least for now), but its two hallmark schools disappeared after 2024. It’s a jungle out there and it’s survival of the fittest.
Is it good for college football? Of course not. Is it good for the Big 12 or the PAC 12 which has also lost its two flagship teams and the Los Angeles market? Of course not. But is it good for the Trojans and the Bruins, two member programs of the PAC 12 for 94 years? Well, the Big Ten just signed a seven-year, $7 billion deal with various networks that will earn each team up to $100 million a year. This is about 400% more than what the schools earned last year. So, financially and selfishly, it’s an economic no-brainer.
But the damage done to the other members of the conference is irreparable. So much for the “alliance” between the Big Ten/Pac 12/ACC. So much for the competitive balance. It’s every team for themselves and no one can be trusted. Universities are big corporations with CFOs, not universities with presidents. The rich get richer and the sport will suffer.
Are the Fighting Irish next, so who?
The next domino to fall is probably Notre-Dame. Do the Irish choose a conference or do they remain independent? Their contract with NBC ends in 2025 and there is talk of maintaining their independent status. The ACC? Their members are supposed to be locked down until 2036 because the conference retains the television rights of its individual schools.
Since when does a contract prevent anyone from breaking it to allow an early release? All that remains is to wait for Clemson, Florida State and Miami to perhaps join Virginia and North Carolina in publicly declaring their desire to leave now. If Oklahoma can turn its back on Oklahoma State, Virginia and North Carolina can do the same with Virginia Tech and NC State. Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt and the others? Nobody cares. It will happen; The only question is when.
So where do I see the future of college football? A 10-team Pac 12 and the newly formed Big 12 merge to remain relevant or disappear, leaving three super conferences – an expanded Big Ten (Washington and Oregon), an expanded SEC (Florida State and Clemson of course), and a consolidated Big 12 /Pac 12. The remnants of the ACC will have a weaker league but will be absorbed into the Big East for basketball only, creating the best college basketball league in the nation. Yes, I said the Great East. Connecticut was the forerunner of things to come. Remember you didn’t hear it here first; you only heard it here, period!
Transfer Rule, NIL and the NCAA
More than 2,000 players transferred in the last academic year. Without a year off rule like in the past, players can leave on a whim. Teams don’t need a coach, they need a general manager. Many call it “the Wild West”. I call it crazy.
A year later, we’re seeing players and rookies going to the highest bidder, thanks to name, image and likeness. It will only get worse before it gets better. What might have put your team on probation or the death penalty in the past (see SMU), is now accepted and encouraged. The players are finally paid. Fantastic. But the next time a paid college football player is called a student-athlete, please correct the reference as an oxymoron.
The NCAA was once a powerful organization that regulated all college sports. Now a shade of himself, he’s merely a token entity when it comes to college football and I expect he won’t have any role in the sport for the foreseeable future. Expect the college football playoffs to have more authority, especially after negotiating the new playoffs after 2026 when the current contract expires. This is when super conferences will dictate the distribution of revenue and the number of teams that qualify. Expect the SEC and Big Ten to have 18-20 teams by then.
Urban Meyer will not leave
Yes, he’s back as a studio analyst at Fox. Fired for cause by the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL last year just 13 games into his freshman season only added to his resume: scandal at Ohio State. Suspended three games. Filmed publicly in compromising situations. Allegations of player abuse. Train a plethora of players who have been arrested for crimes.
Perhaps that just adds to his appeal as a studio commentator. Yes indeed. I believe in second chances but come on!
In the field
There are 11 games on Saturday, but only one involving two Power Five teams. Nebraska and Northwestern play in Dublin, Ireland. Full disclosure – the Huskers still have a place in my heart as they have the best fans in the world and are approaching 400 consecutive sales at Memorial Stadium. This game is being played in Ireland as the North West home game. It won’t matter. The stands will be a sea of red and it will be a home game for the Huskers. Coach Scott Frost has completely overhauled the roster via the transfer portal after losing nine games last year, eight by a score or less. Quarterback Adrian Martinez was traded to K-State and replaced by Texas retread Casey Thompson. With former Brown head coach Mark Whipple as the new offensive coordinator, expect upsets and a win for Big Red.
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