We know that the college football season has already begun because Jim Harbaugh now has a worse winning percentage as Michigan coach than Brady Hoke. Harbaugh lost his Michigan debut on Thursday against Utah, which no doubt put a little extra pep in the step of Ohio State fans. And you know who you are.
We know that the college football season has already begun because Jim Harbaugh now has a worse winning percentage as Michigan coach than Brady Hoke.
Harbaugh lost his Michigan debut on Thursday against Utah, which no doubt put a little extra pep in the step of Ohio State fans.
And you know who you are.
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Hey, this is Columbus, a city that had the nation's highest Nielsen rating (51.2) for last season's inaugural College Football Playoff championship game. Dayton had the nation's second-highest rating (43.8), Cleveland third (41.3) and Cincinnati checked in at sixth (26.5) for that game in which - if you've been living in a cave for the past nine months - OSU beat Oregon.
The state of Ohio, in case you also somehow haven't noticed, is a little wild about the Buckeyes, as Michigan State center Jack Allen can attest from the Spartans' last game at OSU.
"I got flipped off one time by a grandma," Allen said. "I swear, she came out on her porch with a walker when we were driving through. That was special."
Ohio State fans are expecting something special once again when the Buckeyes begin defense of their national title on Monday at Virginia Tech. Expectations are the same among national prognosticators. OSU is the first team to be a unanimous preseason No. 1 in the Associated Press poll.
Fever for the Buckeyes reflects an epidemic that the entire nation has for college football in general. We can't seem to get enough of the game despite its warts and issues. Three more bowl games were added this season, bringing the total to 42. Orlando has three. Mickey Mouse might paint his face.
Last week, Illinois announced it will offer online radio broadcasts of its football games in Mandarin Chinese. And that's Illinois, which has gone 51-95 since 2003 and fired Tim Beckman as coach one week before the season.
College football knows no boundaries. Last season's national title game had the highest ratings in the history of ESPN, and cable television, and averaged 33.4 million viewers. The playoff semifinals attracted more than 28 million viewers each.
No wonder ESPN paid $7.3billion for the rights to 12 years of the playoffs.
No wonder players shake their heads in awe at the attention bestowed upon them.
"It still amazes me that there are 22 guys on the field, and it's a game, and all these people come to watch us play," Penn State senior center Angelo Mangiro said. "When I'm out there, I'm like, 'Wow, there are 100,000 people here to watch me run up and down a field.'"
The popularity of college football soars despite the sport losing some of its distinctiveness from the NFL. College players play for the love of the game, and in the pros it is pure business, right?
"That's too broad of a statement," said Harbaugh, who spent the previous four years coaching the San Francisco 49ers.
Pro-like expectations hover over college coaches. Nebraska fired Bo Pelini after he averaged 9.6 wins a season for seven years. Beckman got the ax last week. "Rutgers Must Fire Kyle Flood As Football Program Unravels," a headline on an NJ.com column read this week.
Homogenization with the NFL was also evident at the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game, where several participants compared the gaudy event to a mini-Super Bowl. The past two decades have led to more luxury suites, more seat donations and more corporate advertising everywhere.
"The old (amateur) model, the way we think about it, is different," OSU athletic director Gene Smith said. "Here, Ohio State is a perfect example."
The constant quest for revenue has Ohio State even turning to selling alcohol at Ohio Stadium for the first time since the Horseshoe opened in 1922. Of course, only the fans in the stadium's 81 suites and 2,700 club seats will have the opportunity to purchase beer and wine.
Money saturates the top tier. In 1995, Florida State made Bobby Bowden the first college football coach to earn $1million per year. Today, 75 college coaches are paid that much or more, led by the $6.5million annual salary of Alabama's Nick Saban.
Even the athletes are getting a small slice of the financial pie. Cost-of-attendance stipends went into effect on Aug.1 after being approved by the NCAA in 2014. Is that pay-for-play? Are coaches like Cincinnati's Tommy Tuberville right to consider fines by withholding a player's stipends? Are they employees? Such questions swirl around "amateur" college football.
Last month, the National Labor Relations Board declined to assert jurisdiction in the Northwestern football players' petition to attempt to form a union. Meanwhile, pending antitrust lawsuits against the NCAA remain a backdrop on this season.
All the ancillary issues are enough to make one wonder about the future of college football - same as they did in 1956. That year, Sports Illustrated published a two-part series on "the present crisis in college football" in which administrators and coaches expressed wide concern about the game's increasing commercialization.
"We are nourishing a monster which can destroy us," Michigan athletic director Fritz Crisler told the magazine.
Six decades later, the monster enthralls the nation more than ever. Look around this weekend and all season. And watch out for grandma.