Guerin Emig: Superconferences, not NIL, will professionalize college football… with a price | OU Sports Extra

We’re fast moving to a point where the SEC is the AFC, the Big Ten is the NFC, and they can potentially have their own postseason culminating in a college football Super Bowl.

Once we arrive we will see that it wasn’t the naming, image and likeness opportunities or the transfer portal that professionalized the sport. It was the insane reorientation towards the consolidation of wealth and power.

We can send USC football players 2,571 miles to Penn State for an off-conference game and streamline it as a unique college experience.

But playing games 2,772 miles away in Rutgers and 2,643 miles away in Maryland in the same Big Ten season? There’s nothing collegiate about it.

Forget boosters that pay out a few grands to players via NIL collectives. For the true definition of pay-for-play, try networks that spend a few billion on conferences to get the right to maneuver the pieces on the chessboard.

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The path to NIL grew out of athletes’ fundamental rights to the same profitable freedom enjoyed by their fellow students.

The road to superconferences was born out of a statement Mike Holder patented when he was Oklahoma state athletic director: “College sports have a voracious appetite for capital.”

According to an industry forecast, the SEC and Big Ten will generate $100 million for each member institution by the end of this decade. This type of capital should officially do what we’ve felt for a long time, that these aren’t programs, they’re organizations, these aren’t coaches, they’re CEOs, and the so-called student-athletes who play the games are actually employees.

College football’s sweeping professionalization will come with some relief — it’ll be sweet to hear unkempt pearls bouncing around the marble halls of NCAA headquarters, forever home to the hardest lines of amateurism — but with one Price.

Players will be even more isolated from their campus and classrooms than they already are. This will lead to a greater separation between the student body and their teams than already exists, leading to a greater separation between alumni and their alma mater’s teams.

We’re unnaturally fans of NFL teams. None of us graduated from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If Some College Football Fans Fall Away, Can Superconference Organizations Attract New Ones Through the NFL Model? That could prove difficult without built-in loyalty, and that could get strained as superconferences are fueled by media network deals that can’t increase in value if viewership falls.

The struggle to assert these actors as workers will intensify as media revenues explode. Which seems encouraging in terms of union organizing and collective bargaining power, but will also mean a huge adjustment.

Players who sign contracts instead of scholarship offers and enter naked free agency instead of a transfer portal are finding that today’s complications regarding their roster positions and portal prospects are nothing but annoyances.

The new structure will shock coaches even more than their players. Many of these men are uncomfortable enough with the portal and the NIL, the two phenomena have long leveled the balance of power for the trainers.

The power tilts in one direction in the NFL. Players get fired from coaches, not the other way around. Imagine how that will feel in the era of professionalized Power 2 football.

Imagine a Big Ten coach surviving a 3-9 season in a few years like Scott Frost just did in Nebraska. Imagine an SEC coach losing to a seventh straight season like OSU defensive coordinator Derek Mason was allowed to do at Vanderbilt.

Imagine the sports director working under these conditions.

Imagine if today’s Football Operations Director becomes tomorrow’s General Manager, there are as many coaches as there are players on the sidelines, there are daily coach-versus-player puzzles to scale the size of the board in Good Will Hunting” and someone has to budget for all of that. That means the AD has to.

Did Joe Castiglione or Chad Weiberg sign up for this?

What about Brent Venables or Mike Gundy? Or even Dillon Gabriel or Spencer Sanders?

At least Gabriel and Sanders will drop out of the college game while it’s largely recognizable. Their successors, or the successors of their successors, are the quarterbacks who must adjust to life after Power 2.

It won’t be the end of the world. Consumption/loyalty to professionalized college football will be impacted, but people will watch, cheer and invest to some degree. A large one probably in bastions like Columbus, Tuscaloosa, Ann Arbor and Baton Rouge.

The game won’t go away like an NFL knockoff startup as it professionalizes. It might even get to the point where it has a minor-league relationship with the NFL, even if that risks reflecting the NFL’s unrelenting, carefree face even more accurately.

No, college football will retain its share of followers as it consolidates wealth and power. The practitioners among us will attribute this to market adjustment.

We’ll see a message related to social justice or breast cancer awareness stenciled behind Owen Field’s endzones, think “meh” and look at the Sooners just like we look at the Chiefs.

“The Market Fit” was tossed around last year in light of NIL’s impact on college football. Like a running back monetizing his social media channel, which would eventually become a college football pro.

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