As you may have noticed, I am not alone in my passion for this sport. Football, especially college football, is not just a hobby or a business. It is a culture in itself.
Sport (or, more precisely, being competitive in sport) requires millions of dollars of investment in order to create billions of dollars in profits, very little of which goes to the athletes who play football and suffer the damage. College football coaches are the highest paid government employees in many states, and the machinations of college sports departments can alter political currents both in their home state and nationally.
A little tale from this summer illustrates these points.
In August, Roger Marshall, a Republican senator from Kansas asked the Justice Department to investigate the nation’s largest sports television network to determine its involvement in the decision of two major universities to change sports conferences.
In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, the senator argued that ESPN may have played a role in the change of conference in Texas and Oklahoma, asking “that DOJ investigate ESPN’s role in the potential destruction of the Big XII Conference and, if applicable, anti- competitive or illegal behavior has occurred as a result of the manipulation of the conference change or ESPN’s contractual television rights. ”
Since 1996, the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma have been the flagship members of the Big 12 conference, which also includes schools like Texas Tech and, yes, the University of Kansas. Earlier in the summer, Texas and Oklahoma announced they wanted to leave the Big 12 conference and join the Southeastern Conference (SEC), which includes sports powers like Alabama and Florida.
At the end of July, SEC members voted unanimously to extend invitations to Texas and Oklahoma, and the two schools will join the SEC in 2025. The result will be a 16-team “super-conference”.
The realignment of the conference in varsity sports is nothing new. Large schools organize conferences to earn more money is an age-old tradition of football, like overestimating Notre-Dame. In the grand scheme of things, this decision may seem irrelevant and perhaps should not be a priority for a US senator.