Next season, College Football adds a new playoff format to determine a “legitimate” champion for the first time in the history of the sport. Funny, it seems that was the big claim of the BCS when it debuted in the late 1990s. But with all of the conference realignment and scheduling changes associated with the new direction of the sport, one must ask: What’s the cost?
In other words, what are we losing? Well, for now, two more rivalries joining the ever-growing list of has-beens. Saturday marks the final installment (for now) of Florida–Miami and Notre Dame–Michigan – casualties of progress, I suppose. Fans should take a good, long look at the rivalries that make each fall special and soak them up now. Because who knows how much longer they’ll be around in this new era.
When the No. 9 Gators crawl into Sun Life Stadium to take on the 24th-ranked Canes, the stands will be whited out. Ironically, so will this rivalry after 2013. The two schools have played 54 times in the 75-year history of the rivalry. Florida-Miami was an annual affair from 1938 to 1987. But times, they’ve been a changing in the college football world, which sadly appears to now have no use for this Sunshine State soirée.
Saturday night, No. 13 Notre Dame will play No. 17 Michigan under the lights at Michigan Stadium for only the second time in history. When the game is over and the stands are cleared, however, the lights will be turned out on both the Big House and this 126-year rivalry. It will be a shame to see it go.
Here are some other long-standing rivalries (many that began in the 1890s) that have been sacked recently:
- Pittsburgh–West Virginia: No. of meetings – 104. First – 1895. Last – 2011.
- Baylor–Texas A&M: No. of meetings – 108. First – 1899. Last – 2011.
- Kansas–Missouri: No. of meetings – 120. First – 1891. Last – 2011.
- Iowa State–Missouri: No. of meetings – 104. First – 1896. Last – 2011.
- Texas–Texas A&M: No. of meetings – 118. First – 1894. Last – 2011.
- Texas A&M–Texas Tech: No. of meetings – 70. First – 1927. Last – 2011.
- Colorado–Nebraska: No. of meetings – 69. First – 1898. Last – 2010.
- Illinois–Missouri: No. of meetings – 24. First – 1896. Last – 2010.
- Missouri-Nebraska: No. of meetings – 104. First – 1892. Last – 2010.
- Missouri–Oklahoma: No. of meetings – 95. First – 1902. Last – 2010.
- Nebraska-Oklahoma: No. of meetings – 86. First – 1912. Last – 2010.
- Virginia Tech–West Virginia: No. of meetings – 51. First – 1912. Last – 2005.
There’s been much debate recently about the importance of rivalries such as Notre Dame-Michigan and Florida-Miami. Some folks ask, and rightly so: Why does it matter whether or not they continue to play?
The ultimate question: Is college football better off sacrificing traditional rivalries in favor of a more NFL-like format? After all, the local feel and the bitter regional battles are what make this sport unique. Now, money and national appeal are the most important drivers of schools, conferences and the sport as a whole. Conferences, especially, are much more interested in securing lucrative television deals and sponsorship packages to boost their status than preserving the annual matchups that put them on the map to begin with.
But the responsibility to protect these long-held traditions ultimately falls to the schools. Many of which have utterly failed their fanbases, choosing to bounce around the conference (and geographic) landscape chasing dollar signs and visions of grandeur. But how good is the return on investment? Ask a Nebraska fan, or a West Virginia fan, or a Missouri fan. Are any of these programs that much better off than they were before breaking ties with their traditional identities? Sure, rivalries will develop in the schools’ new conferences, but letting go is never easy. And what’s been lost often cannot be replaced.
Yet, time, progress and change continue to march on to the ultimate goal of legitimizing the college football national championship, regardless of how many traditional rivalries get trampled in the process. And there are plenty of people beating the drum in support of these changes. But ultimately, what really makes college fun?
Fortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any scenario that would end such rivalries as Alabama–Auburn, Michigan-Ohio State or Oklahoma-Texas. But in this new era of college football, it appears every rivalry could have its price.