First and foremost, I must acknowledge my own bias. I am an avid Ohio State fan, and thus my perception of this season, and college football as a whole, is viewed through that lens. I am sure that, had Ohio State made the playoff and won a championship, I would have a slightly rosier view of the sport. Alas, we failed those objectives, so we're left to wonder what went wrong. I'm looking beyond just the realm of the Scarlet and Gray, though, and here's why I think 2023 proved that college football is not a legitimate sport - at least when compared to "professional" leagues (anyone who thinks CFB isn't, with NIL, 8-figure coach buyouts and transfer portal, well, I don't know what to tell you). This season decimated the sport that I love, for the following reasons:
1. Death of the Pac12 - The 2023 season hadn't even started when we saw the demise of one of the proudest, most prestigious conferences in CFB. While I'm excited for Oregon and UW to join whatever the fuck we are going to call our 18 (I think) team conference, I can't help but feel saddened at the future of schools like Oregon State and WSU, particularly when a school like OSU just spent almost $100 mil to renovate their stadium, based on the expectation of maintaining Pac12 TV revenue (note: I live in WA State, so I know a lot of people from these universities and understand just how much their teams mean to them).
2. The Worst On-field Cheating Scandal in History - This one should be pretty obvious and has been analyzed to death here. Aside from its impact and benefit to the team that committed this fraud, not only have they NOT been punished, they are now being lauded and cheered for how well they fought through this "adversity". This being, of course, the adversity that THEY CREATED.
3. NIL & The Wild, Wild West - This is another one where I must admit being negatively biased, simply due to how many recruits we've seemingly lost due to absurd NIL offers and expectations. I'm not advocating that we blow up an entire class to throw millions at a guy like Justin Scott or Mark Fletcher from a couple years ago, but when schools like Miami and Auburn consistently flip recruits from Bama, UGA, Ohio State due almost entirely to NIL promises, it calls the legitimacy of current NIL rules (or lack thereof) into question.
4. FSU and the SEC - This is a tough one. I went to bed fully expecting FSU to make the playoff, simply due to the fact that they were an undefeated Power 5 champion, which had never been left out of the playoff. I do agree that FSU would have gotten housed due to their QB situation, but part of me felt they deserved a chance to prove their worth on the field, much like we did way back in 2014. I think more than anything, I'm pissed that the SEC (particularly Bama and/or UGA) gets the benefit of the doubt. Again. I expect the expanded playoff to help with this, but anyone who doesn't believe that the SEC will be beating the drum for 5-6 SEC teams to make the 12-team playoff is kidding themselves.
Look, I get that it's all about money now. I do. I understand these programs need massive revenues to feed the beast. But teams like UW and Oregon are going to need a lot more of it now to fly their softball teams to Rutgers and Maryland and Penn State. Maybe college football has always been this way and we just didn't see how the sausage was made. Regardless, I'll always remember 2023 for all the wrong reasons. This was the year when we decided to completely stop caring about the "student athlete". 2023 was the year when a school that has always prided itself on "doing it the right way" decided to cheat, just so they could beat their rival. And 2023 was the year when we decided that the results on the field didn't matter - not when we have the opportunity to put Bama in, anyway.
What about you? What are some things that happened this year that might have altered your feelings or perceptions of the sport? Or am I totally off base and missing the fact that college football is better than ever?