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Notes on the College Football Bubble

Looking good bro! You too!
Looking good bro! You too!

Ever since I first started using the frame that college football is in the midst of a bubble, like internet stocks or housing, I can't help but see the parallels everywhere. Here, for instance, are a couple of recent things that just strike me as absurd:

Maryland's Uniforms: Yes, we all got a big laugh out of the Lady-GaGa-meets-Baltimore train wreck that was the state flag inspired uniforms the Terps wore in their opening game against Miami on Monday. But lost in that display was the announcement that the team captains would select new uniforms before every game from the 32 available combinations Under Armour has provided. Sure, the players will now be giving more thought to what they'll wear to the game than the average sorority girl, but this reminds me nothing more of anyone who collected comic books or baseball cards or anything else cheap and indistinguishable in the nineties; they'd release one or two alternate versions, and before you know it your issue of Spider-guy Versus the Steroid Team would have seventeen different chromium covers, and the publishers expected you to buy them all. And the next thing you knew, the local store was closed, buried under unsold stock. After all, Under Armour isn't cranking out jerseys just for the publicity, and who wants that many Maryland uniforms to choose from?

SEC's Horrible Television Deal: That's the latest meme, that SEC is trapped in an absolutely awful television deal with ESPN and CBS, which is why they'll announce they've accepted Texas A&M as a member today and set off another round of conference consolidation. Of course, when the deal was actually signed way back in 2009, the worry was that the 15-year deal was too much money, and might actually hurt college football. What happened in the last two years? A huge run-up in the bidding price for televised sports. Now all of a sudden even the ACC and the Pac-12 have large payouts , and the Big East is expecting the same. So the SEC is trying lock down more cash for themselves. It's the television deal equivalent of flipping houses, and it'll' probably work for the conference. It might even work for the Big East. But when the ratings for some of those lesser conference games start pouring in, and a second recession dries up advertising dollars, well, I wouldn't count those fifteen years before they hatch.

On a similar note, I also enjoy the complete about-face of popular opinion towards the Longhorn Network. The creation of Texas's cash cow is what saved the Big 12, keeping the UT from defecting to the Pac-12 – who immediately established six or so minor, two-team equivalents of the Longhorn network anyway. (No one's concerned about those, as everyone has one and they're al destined to be high-channel cable fodder.) Twelve months later, the Longhorn network is seen as a massive overreach that destroyed the conference it was designed to save. All while barely being on anyone's cable box. Somehow the divide between the haves and the have-nots is only a problem now, that they're sharing the same conference and people who formerly thought themselves as haves are now getting their feelings hurt.

The Abandonment of the Games: The other sure sign of a bubble? In the midst of everyone clamoring to throw money at the tradition and pageantry of college football, the people providing it start saying how meaningless said tradition is. Bob Stoops announces that the 105-game Red River Rivalry can be dropped, if need be. It's not important. The 86-game Nebraska-OU rivalry has already gone the the way of the dodo after all, and Texas is saying they'll drop A&M from their schedule. Because I'm sure a thrilling yearly battle with Navy will bring just as many eyeballs. History no longer applies, and the quality of the product we're selling isn't important. Both things that are said right before the market for whatever you're hyping crashes to earth.

Anyway, everything looks one step closer to the consolidation into 16-team conferences, after which they really stop being conferences and just become television cartels. I'm sure fans of teams divorced from everything they've known will continue to love their new travels to far-off venues for mediocre games. After all, there will be a new uniform combination debuted! That's what everyone's watching for, right?