Speaking as a fan | Eastern North Carolina Now

Lib Campbell: Above
    I am no football expert. I am only a fan. I learned the game as a cheerleader in the 1960s. I knew the "push 'em back" and the " hey, hey, let's go" as well as anybody. I watched a lot of football when Tom and Big Al Wheeler called play-by-play for games on the radio. I still like to listen to football on the radio.

    We followed football teams to championships in Ayden and Wilson. I always thought it was a rough game to play. I am a little like Andy Griffith in thinking they "knock one man down and run another one in." It's sport with modern day Gladiators. Cheerleaders in skimpy uniforms add to the thrill. It's a money-making machine, even in college.

    When our family formed a Fantasy Football League, I really began to understand football play calling, strategies, penalties and fouls. When the ACC lost Maryland and added a Boston College, I knew something was going off the rails in football.

    Television revenues were driving the leagues to bring in teams, regardless of their affinity with the Atlantic Coast Conference. The new teams could increase market shares and revenues for TV stations and colleges. But the conference changed. Notre Dame. Syracuse. Pitt. If I wanted to see my team play one of these schools I would have to book a flight and get a hotel room.

    The buzz through the years revolves around the expectations of young athletes playing hard, risking injury, costing their ever playing in the NFL. Student athletes make a lot of money for their schools but receive little - supposedly - beyond scholarships for their efforts.


    This year, as the college playoffs were on the horizon and bowl games were being played, talk focused on the players who were "opting out" rather than risking injury in post-season play. Between the transfer portal, which lures elete athletes, often with 7-figure money, to transfer, and the opting out, there were teams scrambling to reconfigure their lineups for play on national television. It was obvious players were missing.

    My hunch about money being the driver in all the change was backed up in a January 6 CNN article by Will Leitch who titles his piece, "Welcome to the end of college football as we know it." He bullet-points six lessons we learned in the 2023 season.

    First, "TV executives are the new commissioners and now run everything." Money and television ratings are primary drivers in big time college football. Leitch conjectures that this is why Florida State, an ACC team undefeated in season play, was dissed from the playoffs in favor of SEC bigtime Alabama. Money. Money. Money.

    Leitch agrees, "The death of conferences is just beginning," In our own ACC, the gasps are evident. He cautions that the "ACC and the Big 12 shouldn't breathe easy." There is speculation that "the SEC and the Big Ten will pounce when other conferences appear weak." Say goodnight, Gracie.


    "Little schools will be banished to the minor leagues, and little may just mean your alma mater." If the ACC is in trouble, how will football survive in schools like Elon and Campbell? Or will alumni support and college pride secure the longevity of programs beyond conferences?

    Video gaming and NIL interests are in the forefront of college football change. Leitch says, "the college video game is going to change everything as young athletes license their own names, images, and likenesses." Fame, money, and popularity will fuel a game that will look be more production than sport.

    "The sport has reached its end-stage-capitalism period" Recounting the controversy embroiling Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, Leitch says, "As long as you're winning and bringing in the ratings, none of the scandal makes a difference." This seems to be a pattern that goes beyond football. It's a give-me-what-I-want and I will let you do-whatever-you-want world.

    Transactional dealings reduce our capacity to ever move beyond self-interest. That may be what football is becoming, but that way of dealing corrodes a lot of American culture as we know it.

    Leitch ends his article saying, "In the end, only the Pop-Tart will endure." Sad, but true that the sport is reduced to the highest bidder and the cleverest mascot. Sugar, Peaches, and Roses now join with Mayo and Pop Tart in promoting football to the masses. Anything is for sale. Name a price.


sp;   I repeat, I am only a fan. I wear school colors to the game. I buy the swag at the college store. I eat popcorn and hot dogs and love the thrill of the game. I have no solutions, only regret that changes may come that neuter the ACC and leave us as a bush league with intermural play. Change is part of life, but some change helps no one except those at the top.

    Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader and hosts the website: avirtualchurch.com. She welcomes comments at libcam05@gmail.com.
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