(Editor’s note: This is a slight revision of an article which first appeared in The Dothan Eagle on August 17, 2013. It is more relevant than ever, according to its author.)
The announcement of the formation of the NSL — the National Super League for college football — was not all that surprising. However, the intensified scheduling format did raise a few eyebrows. The NSL, which replaces the obsolete NCAA, will have the expected 64-team membership of the most-wallet-worthy college football programs—Alabama, USC, Ohio State, Notre Dame,
Florida, FSU, LSU, Texas, Oklahoma, all the usual suspects. “Yup, it’s a jim-dandy,” quipped Grantland Rice’s son, Billy Bucks Rice, though the portrait of his famous father in the background appeared to have a tear welling up in his eye.
The new 63-game regular season schedule in which all members play each other in a round-robin rib-roast that will allow 24/7 tailgating does appear a bit ambitious. Since three-hour college courses are commonly scheduled MWF, i.e., Monday-Wednesday-Friday, the teams will play their games Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday, still allowing Sunday to be a day of rest as well as money-counting of the week’s revenues.
Since three games per week for the 17 weeks from September to December would only account for 51 games, leaving 12 more to be played, the NSL’s super-computer has scheduled doubleheaders on 12 of the 17 Saturdays. “Geographic proximity” was the key to making college football doubleheaders both feasible and fun. For example, when Ohio State comes south to play the Florida Gators in Gainesville at 1 o’clock on a Saturday, there will still be sufficient time for both teams to shower, dress, and depart for their night games. The Buckeyes will make a short trek up to Tallahassee to play FSU at 8 p.m. while the Gators will have an even shorter hop over to Jacksonville for their annual Border Battle with Georgia at 7 p.m.
Since Georgia fans will be streaming in from their morning game with South Carolina and Gator fans still a bit wobbly from tailgating before the Ohio State game, it may be difficult to still sell the Florida-Georgia game as the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party.” However, it is hoped that the big game will still retain some traces of tradition—though sacrifices must be made to accommodate the new 677-game TV package the NSL has negotiated with ESPN.
Soon after the announcement of the NSL’s 63-game schedule (plus a six-round national playoff in January) was made, the National Seismographic Center recorded “major rumbles” throughout the country. However, it was later determined that these terrestrial disturbances were merely Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, and Knute Rockne rolling over in their graves.
The NSL immediately issued a press report to tamp down protests from both the living and the dead, noting that the new scheduling format will create an avalanche of exciting new rivalries—such as Fresno State-VPI, Idaho-Clemson, and Rutgers-Rice. And with 32 games being televised every Tuesday and Thursday with some Saturdays having a bonanza of 64, fans will soon forget Woody Hayes, Knute Rockne, and Bear….Bear….I’ve already forgotten his name.
The NSL president quipped that the cash cow of college football will soon be a bovine of mega-bucks, allowing staff salaries to double and triple. After all the naysayers, doubters, and skeptics were rounded up and ridden out of town, there was just one little boy left at the “Stop the NSL” meeting at our civic center here in Higginsville. He came up to me, a sad look etched on his face amid all the smudges from his sandlot football game, and said, “Mister, I only have one question: ‘If all those Wall Street banks were too big to fail, could college football conferences ever become too big to succeed?’” Perhaps he was wise beyond his years. “Son,” I replied, “that all depends on our definition of success.”
James F. Burns, a retired University of Florida professor, was on the Michigan basketball team — back when the Big Ten had ten members — long, long ago.