College Football is King

College football is not even in season but it is the lead on many sports telecasts, this time of year you have the NBA playoffs, the question of where will Lebron James sign his free agent contract, MLB, etc but the two top stories in many markets; conference expansion and the USC probation. If you did not know college football is king.

Conference expansion has brought home the point that at the end of the day, in order for your overall program to be considered among the elite and worthy of being a true major conference program you need to have a football program that is relevant, nationally and at least locally. We can take the examples of Colorado and Kansas. These two schools are great to compare because academically both are members of the AAU so their academic pedigree is similar. Kansas is a university with an ultra-successful basketball program. This is a university that boasts among its coaches the inventor of basketball, James Naismith, and Dean Smith who was once the winningest coach in NCAA history. One could argue that Kansas is one of the blueblood hoops programs. It has numerous national championships, fans sell out their home games at Allen Field House and Kansas is a huge draw on the road, but the football program is not as well supported although recently the schools has put some money into the stadium, but you could say too little too late.

Colorado is a program with a terrible hoops program but has a nice venue to play college football, Folsom Field seats 53,750 and the stadium is close to full on many fall Saturdays and this is even though the Buffs have been less than stellar in recent years. Colorado has won a national championship in the nineties, but has had a history of futility for many years. The Buffs however, have a following in the state of Colorado and this is a market where there are professional teams for all of the four major sports. So what did we learn from this? This is a cautionary tale for any athletic program that believes that if it sinks money into its basketball program neglects its football program it will pay off in being relevant they are sorely mistaken.

The funny thing about this is Colorado has not sunk a ton of money into the football program but it has put more into the football program than the basketball program and as a result the Buffs will reap the rewards of being in the Pac-10. It tells you that if you are a school with designs of running with the big dogs and cashing huge BCS checks you need to market your football program. Your fans need to pack the stadium on Saturdays in the fall; win or lose. Kansas’s failing is just as much the fault of its athletic department as it is the fans. If the Jayhawks are playing in front of a packed house, win or lose and the athletic department is sinking money into the football program is Kansas a candidate for membership in the Big 10? Probably, but we do not know, but we do know this Kansas went the other way and their reward for that decision? They are left scrambling for a conference that will allow them to keep their overall athletic program relevant. College football is king could not have been shouted any louder and clearer with Kansas being left with its face mashed against the window looking in on the party.

The bottom line is that if you want to remain relevant or become relevant market your football program and do everything to ensure that your program is relevant at least locally. Programs that are teetering on the brink of fading into obscurity need to realize that there will be another reorganization of conferences in five to seven years, when programs become disenchanted with the deals struck with these conferences or conferences realize that 16 teams is hard to manage (ask the WAC). Those programs in the interim need to invest in their football programs, having a good basketball program is nice and will get you press the three weeks in March but if you want to be relevant your football program is your program that will take you places because……… COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS KING.