TV Networks Are Ruining College Sports
College sports is one thing above all else — big business. This endeavor hasn't had anything to do with academics or amateurism for a long time.
That's not breaking news, by any means. But recent developments have shaken college sports' institutions and drastically altered its landscape, relatively overnight.
The 2022 edition of Dr. Pepper's Fansville ad campaign, although aiming to be funny and just a little snarky, is chillingly accurate.
"College football is back, and it's total chaos..."
"The conference lines are being redrawn, and Fansville's being ripped apart!"
"There's East Coast teams on the West Coast. There's West Coast teams in the Midwest."
"It's just too much change! What's next, games in the metaverse?! Robot coaches?!"
Major college sports is overrun on several fronts, unable to keep up with — let alone manage — radical, fundamental changes that are pushing the entire system far beyond the point of no return.
There's unprecedented player movement thanks to one-time, instant-eligibility transfers and the Transfer Portal.
The advent of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) has opened the floodgates for money, introducing a deluge of dollars for players so large and so sudden that big-time college football and basketball have become the Wild West.
Common sense, geography, and tradition all have been cast aside as schools and conferences realign.
Historic rivalries are going extinct.
And it's getting harder and harder to find games amid the myriad channels and streaming platforms that carry them.
All of these cataclysmic phenomena trace back to the same source — TV. As college sports and its caretakers continue their eternal search for greater revenues, media networks are leveraging the industry's insatiable economic appetite and commercial bloat to line their own pockets.
TV networks have never wielded greater power and influence in college sports, and, for that matter, all televised sports. Week 18, the finale of the NFL's 2022 regular season, is a great example.
The last NFC Wild Card playoff berth must be decided between the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, and Detroit Lions. The Packers are in the driver's seat, controlling their own destiny; if they win, they're in. The Seahawks would take the final spot with a win and a loss or tie by Green Bay. Detroit qualifies for the postseason with a win and a Seattle loss.
The NFL is great at creating drama, and there's plenty to be had here. Green Bay and Detroit play each other to close the regular season, which is a great matchup given the playoff fortunes that hang in the balance. The Seahawks play a bad, long-since-eliminated Los Angeles Rams squad.
The obvious scheduling solution here would be to maximize drama by having the Packers-Lions and Seahawks-Rams games played at the same time. This arrangement ensures playoff fates remain completely up in the air for both games, which lends itself to greater intrigue and theatrics.
It's such a no-brainer for the NFL, right? Wrong! That would make too much sense.
Because TV networks are paying handsomely for broadcast rights in big-time sports, they get a handsome say in how the games are scheduled. In this case, it's NBC, who's paying a whopping $2 billion per season for exclusive television rights to the NFL's Sunday Night Football product. The suits at NBC used the clout afforded them by their checks made out to the NFL to get Aaron Rodgers and the Packers as they play for a postseason berth into their network's primetime slot. Never mind that a Seattle win earlier in the day will take exactly half of the sizzle out of this matchup as it would negate all playoff stakes on the line for Detroit.
For better or worse, TV governs the sports universe nowadays. For players, coaches, teams, and fans, it's often for the worse, as evidenced by the contemporary chaos of high-level college football and basketball.
TV networks are ruining college sports.