As Thursday nights college football kickoff draws closer I can’t help but be a little less excited then normal. Don’t get me wrong, I live for college football and the opening Saturday is welcomed with open arms after a long eight months off. This year however, an offseason full of scandal has left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I’m sure that once the games actually begin these thoughts will turn into “how in the hell did he catch that”, or “I can’t believe he broke out of that tackle”, but right now my mind just can’t seem to shake the poison that has tainted my favorite sport the last several months.
Let me preface this by saying I am a much bigger college football fan then I ever will be an NFL fan, which is why I’m so troubled by the recent trend in the sport. Something about the idea that these athletes are giving their all on every play knowing they likely won’t be playing after they graduate appeals to me. It’s not about the money, the shoe deals or the glitz and glamour for most of these kid’s, it’s about the love of the game. Sure you have your NFL caliber players who are showcasing themselves to pro scouts but the majority of the young men you see on Saturday are just playing because they know it’s the last chance they will get before they have to “hang up the cleats”. For me, this is why college sports appealed to me long before the pro game. Now however, I can’t help but feel that those players are disappearing.
It wasn’t too long ago that we spent our summers debating who would be the surprise team, the team that falters, who would win the Heisman or what would be the biggest upset of the season. Now we’ve had to spend an entire offseason discussing whether or not amateurism in athletics is feasible anymore. While I’m not naïve enough to think something doesn’t need to be done I can’t help but feel a little sick thinking the game I love to watch is slowly turning into a minor league system of sorts. Don’t get me wrong, things need to change. Players do need to be able to work and earn extra income and they should have extra spending money factored into their scholarship. Given the number of infractions it’s obvious changes need to occur, but the idea that a player should get paid for an autograph session or would be compensated for making an appearance at a car dealership to me is frankly disturbing.
Like most of you, I will be parked in front of a television this weekend. When the subject at the water cooler turns to college football I’m looking forward to being able to talk about more than amateurism in athletics. I’m thankful that soon I’ll be able to replace the discussions of scandals and sanctions with touchdowns and interceptions. However, I’ll be watching for more than just huge plays and Heisman performances this season. I’ll be watching for something to be optimistic about. Something to make me believe, that I’m still watching young men who are playing for their love of the game.