Why College Football Will Be Dead in 20 Years

By DJ Byrnes on July 18, 2013 at 3:03p

Jon Johnston of CornNation had a very provocative read today concerning the future of college football (that should be read in its entirety). The concussion crisis, the sports cable bubble and even the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit are all red flags that have been flagged as being potentially poisonous to college football.

Johnston's angle is different; he says college football is in trouble because the American university itself is in trouble and will take college sports with it:

Some people, like Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, predict that in as little as 15 years half of the colleges in the United States will be in bankruptcy, upended by online learning and the move to hybrid models in which only select classes are taught in person on campus. Others see more incremental shifts, with virtual learning remaining a tool rather than a transformative technology in higher education.

Higher education officials are also concerned about MOOCs — Massive Open Online Courses which are tuition-free and can be taught to innumerable people at once:

MOOCs are a recent development, but are quickly causing a stir amongst higher educators because of their ability to reach so many students using few resources. Example: In 2011, Stanford offered three MOOC-based courses in machine learning, artificial intelligence and databases. 350,000 students from 190 countries signed up. To understood the magnitude of Stanford's experience, professor Andrew Ng stated:

"In order to reach a comparably sized audience on campus I would have to teach my normal Stanford course for 250 years."

The advent of the internet and computers has changed all facets of life, so it shouldn't be surprising that these tools have the potential to radically alter our education system. While I don't think state colleges are going anywhere, only 23 of 228 athletic departments operated in the black last year. Even as the NCAA has allowed for-profit Grand Canyon University to join the WAC, it certainly isn't hard to envision the open-sourcing of education having chilling effects on college athletics as we know them today.

Before you write this scenario off as implausible, how ridiculous would Detroit filing for bankruptcy have sounded back in the 1970's?

View 47 Comments