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College Football

A Bigger SEC Is Better Football

DALLAS, TEXAS - OCTOBER 12: A general view of play between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners during the 2019 AT&T Red River Showdown at Cotton Bowl on October 12, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Today, Oklahoma and Texas officially confirmed their plans to move to the SEC after their contract with the Big 12 expires in 2025. If you were literally born yesterday, this is an evil and vile occurrence: an ominous sign that the people in charge of college football are more than willing to abandon the traditions, upon which the sport’s popularity has been cultivated, in favor of easy TV money. GASP!

And yet, MANY sportswriters are already acting as if their precious innocence has been violated, starting with The Athletic’s Chris Vannini:

Quite honestly, it sucks. We love every juicy rumor about who could land where, but college football is racing down a road toward becoming a mini-NFL, and it will ruin everything we love about the sport… It’s not pro sports. It’s supposed to mean something more. There aren’t 30 “teams” we care about. There are a hundred unique communities. But pettiness and greed have won the decade, and this move by Texas, Oklahoma and the SEC could cement this path toward ending that forever.

You can actually HEAR me jerking off to that blockquote. Vannini is acting as if this move is some sort of definitive point of no return for a sport that crossed that point from its very inception and crosses it over and over again as a matter of tradition. And it’s insane to me that any sportswriter—in fact, fuck it, any sports FAN—would say college football is “not pro sports” the same year that its players were finally, at long last, allowed to profit from their work, as professionals do and should. If college football is ready to drop the mask and operate as a nakedly capitalistic enterprise devoid of all the scholar-athlete horseshit, with its players getting a taste of the action, NO ONE should be shocked or dismayed when its leaders do more of the nakedly capitalistic shit they’ve been doing my entire life. “A hundred unique communities.” Gimme a fucking break. They all get drunk and eat lots of grilled meats and go fuck in the big bathroom stall at the half every game. What a fucking rainbow.

This isn’t the first time Texas has switched conferences in my lifetime. In fact, if you remember the brief period when it toyed with the idea of joining the Pac-12, it’s damn near the fourth. I don’t give a shit. Texas fans, who remain legion despite themselves, certainly don’t seem to give a shit either. Most of us are used to this reshuffling now. It’s just how college football IS, and it’s done very little to affect my enjoyment of the sport, at least in its non-pandemic form, over the course of my life. Yes, I miss a Big Eight where Nebraska runs the option. No, I can’t remember who’s in the ACC anymore and who isn’t. Yes, I thought it was an abomination that the Big Ten got so horny for eyeballs that they brought RUCKUHS into the fold. But I got over all that.

And if you go by the pre-COVID crowds and ratings, so did everyone else. If OU’s and Texas’ machinations prove anything, it’s that college sports is apparently the last safe place for sportswriters to deploy Lupica-grade smarm and assume the world agrees with them. I do not agree with them. I’m not gonna spend this season singing along to “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” and pouring one out while Texas plays Iowa State for potentially the last time. No one will. In fact, I’ll be demonstrably annoyed that the SEC move hasn’t happened yet. The SEC plays the best brand of football at this level, and it just added arguably CFB’s best tactician in Lincoln Riley and its most reliable sap-with-dignity in Texas. I can’t wait for those two to join in on the fun.

Because it will be fun. Demanding stasis from college football is not only childish, it also presumes that fans can’t adjust to their new reality. Believe me, they can. The fans are still gonna make whatever drunken pilgrimages they’re asked to make. They’re still gonna sell out every home game. They’re still gonna tailgate. They’re still gonna watch the Sooner Schooner race out onto the field and secretly hope it tips over. They’re still gonna camp out behind the GameDay set and hoot in approval when Corso puts on a big elephant head. They’re still gonna laugh in Dabo’s face when he’s like, “Well if we get left outta that there playoff because Owklahowma got een, aw’ll just have tew retire!” I’ve met college football fans. There’s nothing you can take away from them if they’re determined to keep it.

I’ve seen people like Vannini and our own Ray Ratto compare what’s happening with college football right now to the international Super League in soccer that got smothered in utero after fans vehemently protested it. But while that’s a convenient analogy, it’s not a useful one. You see any fans amassing outside SEC headquarters in Birmingham, screaming for vengeance? No. And do you know why? Because they’re fine with this.

The Super League was a shit idea because it threatened to denigrate an already excellent product by discarding soccer’s hallowed promotion/relegation structure in favor of lifetime appointments in a more calcified iteration of the Champions League. But what we’re watching in college football right now IS promotion and relegation, with Texas and OU moving up to the big leagues and making those big leagues more competitive in the process. This is how it SHOULD work. This is how many fans here have begged for American pro sports to work for years now. So really, the people complaining about this move are closer to the people who pissed and moaned about the formation of the Premier League in 1992. Those people were wrong.

And so are the people trying to pooh-pooh Texas and Oklahoma by going, “Well what’s Kansas supposed to do now?” The fuck do I care? That’s a Kansas problem. All I know is that the big games just got bigger, which is a net good for anyone who cares about college football aesthetically and not morally. We’re weeding out the more moneyed cupcakes in the sport, and if that makes CFB more like the NFL now, well fuck that’s EXACTLY what I want. Especially if this sets us down a road not to ruin but (and yes I’m as jaded as you are on this one) to players getting actual salaries. So no, I don’t give a shit about community. I don’t give a shit about oaken buckets. I’ve re-engineered my viewing habits and my rooting interests to the new landscape of college football before, and I can do it again with this more streamlined, NFL-y version of it. If you can’t, well then you deserve to be left behind the same way Oklahoma State is about to be.

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