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Whither College Sports?

So long ago, far away.

When I was a kid — As the Tap would say, “In ancient times hundreds of years before the dawn of history” — intercollegiate athletics was, well, quaint actually. At least given what’s going on these wacko days.

Pardon my sentimental journey for a sec to the mid 50s in the Way Back Machine.

Here’s how you’d find out about college football teams and players and schedules. Your dad would bring home some little pamphlet he’d gotten off the counter at Bonnycastle Drugs or Spangler’s Shell or the hardware store.

There’d be all the above noted and results and maybe a story or two. Sometime wondrous little factoids in smaller print at the bottom of the page. (When you are an budding adolescent sports addict, the threshold for wondrous is low.)

One I particularly remember had a couple of pages in the back with outlines of all the big stadiums. Not seating charts, just the shape, their footprints. Which I memorized. For years, I could identify a line drawing of Camp Randall.

One game a week on the grainy black and white TV. Lindsey Nelson or Chris Schenkel on the call. Being impatient, I’d hate when the game was late afternoon, and have to wait so long for kickoff. Except of course for the Rose Bowl because there would be the Cotton or Orange earlier on New Year’s Day.

I’d sit mesmerized watching post game score shows. SMU vs. TCU seemed so mysterious, exotic. Where were these schools? Horned Frogs vs. Mustangs.

So long ago, so far away.

So hard to talk about now.

In these times when the landscape is changing so quickly in money grabs. With the rich getting inevitably richer, and the rest, including my beloved Louisville Cardinals, most likely left in the dust.

The metamorphosis began in the early 80s, oddly 1984 I believe, when the NCAA lost its monopoly on televising football games. Schools began doing it, then conferences took over. Then came cable and streaming and television, once the tail, became the beast.

* * * * *

With football money driving the sea change, collegiate athletics in four or five years is going to be A Whole New Thing.

My favorite school has a better chance than not, standing outside, faced pressed against the ice cream store window.

But I’d hate these changes — I have to believe, or hope I have to believe — were I fan of a Big 10 or SEC school. I hope I’d dislike the commercialization, even if the Louisville Cardinals were coveted enough by Fox or ESPN or CBS or NBC or Apple or Hulu, and they got invited to the party.

Which they will not be.

* * * * *

My sense is that people in my neck of the woods — the heart of college hoops country — don’t really realize how adversely this is going to affect the game we cherish the most. (Not that we aren’t disconsolate enough about the blow sure to come to Cardinal pigskin.)

We are of the ilk that we can’t wait for hoops season to start.*

* One thing is better than the days of yesteryore. Basketball starts in early November, instead of the first Saturday of December, and goes into April as opposed to ending in March.

That obsession is not the same for most of the country. The sports universe for the most part doesn’t start paying attention to basketball until after the Super Bowl. Except maybe in HoosierLand and Tobacco Road.

I cannot help but be bereft at the prospects for the future of hoops and, for my school, football.

* * * * *

I have no insight on what the future really holds.

Discussion of ACC media rights forfeiture is above my pay grade. I haven’t the slightest idea the next move of wily Greg Sankey.

I do know it makes me sad. Out of sorts. Fretful.

I do know I can no longer draw an outline of Camp Randall Stadium.

— c d kaplan