Holy tits, college football’s just around the corner. It’s almost here, and then America’s great fall Saturday past-time will cause mid-afternoon blackouts and couch burning. God, it’s so great.
Until then, it’s recommended that all fans check out The New York Times’ three-part series on ESPN’s involvement in college football over the past two decades. Realize that you don’t have present-day college pigskin without the Worldwide Leader–if that wasn’t obvious already.
James Andrew Miller–one of the journalists who wrote the bible on ESPN’s history, Those Guys Have All The Fun–spearheads the series. And his rapport has benefitted the series so far, with the first post’s publishing on Sunday that intricately details how ESPN cornered the college football market: getting schools to play anytime, anywhere, especially on weekdays.
The second installment focuses specifically on the University of Louisville, which took the “anytime, anywhere” mantra and ran with it. A few of the piece’s highlights include the usual boilerplate lamenting from university faculty that they wish more of that money flowed into the academic coffers*.
But it also highlights the astronomical growth in athletic department revenues (from $14 million in 1997 to $77 million in 2012), Louisville’s former reputation as a commuter school (only 2,000 of the 15,000 undergrads pre-athletics boom lived on campus) and the fact that the school’s gleaming $238 million KFC Yum Center basketball arena would be one of the largest NBA arenas if it actually housed a, you know, NBA franchise.
Admittedly, this piece is a little scary. Not that the ballooning of athletic department revenues and conference rights fees didn’t already indicate that the college game is no longer your granddaddy’s sport. But it’s Louisville’s earnest acceptance of ESPN as its catalyst to big-time university status that’s most salient.
Per Tom Jurich, Louisville’s athletic director: “If it wasn’t for ESPN, we wouldn’t be a fraction of what we are today…. We owe them so, so much.”
A lot of other former mid-major athletic directors probably feel the same way, too, but Jurich’s honesty is one of the first times I’ve read an athletic director openly copping to using ESPN as a business model. Not that there’s anything morally wrong with that. Method Man said it best when he said “Cash Rules Everything Around Me.” So why should it be any different in big-time college athletics?
For the record, seven of Louisville’s games will feature on an ESPN channel this season. As for anytime, any place? Only one of those will be on a Thursday night. It seems Louisville played its cards (pun intended) right. Bourbon blackouts and couch burning Saturdays for all.
* – You mean to tell me that a campus dormitory had mold spores growing inside of it and the school didn’t rectify it with all that new dough? Go figure.