Tom Blount: It’s all about the money!
In 1869, Rutgers and Princeton met in what Rutgers claims was the first ever intercollegiate football game between two American teams. A Wikipedia report points out it was an unfamiliar ancestor of today’s college football, however, as it was played under 6-year-old soccer-style Association rules.
The first ever played that resembles football as it is known today used “Boston rules” in 1874 between Harvard, an American team, and McGill University of Montreal, a Canadian team. Harvard won, 3-0. A year later, newspaper reports show Harvard defeated Tufts University, 1-0, in the first game between two American colleges played under rules similar to the McGill/Harvard contest.
Among development steps for college football:
• “With 330 college athletes dying as a direct result of football injuries between 1890 and 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt organized a meeting among 13 school leaders,” a report said, “to find solutions to make the sport safer,” resulting in formation of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States” (forerunner to the NCAA).
• In 1913, Knute Rockne-coached Notre Dame popularized the forward pass in a game with Army.
Fast forward to 1998 when (what Wikipedia describes as) compromise between both bowl game and playoff supporters, the NCAA created the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in order to create a definitive National Championship game. The ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac 12, and SEC Conference champions all would be guaranteed a spot in one of the BCS games, while the remaining spots would go to at-large teams.
When a committee of university presidents approved a plan last summer for a four-team playoff put forward by commissioners of the top football conferences, 2012 became a “breakout” year in college football history. Instead of simply matching the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams in a title game after the regular season in 2014, the new format will create a pair of national semifinals in 2015. No. 1 will play No. 4, and No. 2 will play No. 3, with sites of those games rotating among the four current BCS bowls – Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar – and two more to be determined.
Winners of the semis will advance to the championship on the first Monday in January that is six or more days after the last semifinal. The football committee will consider won-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results and whether a team is a conference champion while trying to whittle the field of 125 to four.
2012 also will be known for its plethora of conference re-alignments. Pittsburgh area sports writer Eric Hall says the league-leaping is all about revenue (primarily TV money) and “establishing four 16-team superconferences that will control the fate of the Division I-FBS football playoffs. The Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC are almost there.”
Some alignments ignore elementary school-level math and geography odd:
• The Big 12 has 10 teams.
• The Big 10 has 14 teams.
• The 14-team ACC now stretches westward to Kentucky for football and to Indiana for every sport except football.
• The 14-team SEC now stretches north to Missouri and west to Texas.
• The Big East, holding on to Louisville one more year, has a dozen football teams, after losing TCU before it ever played a game and awaiting Navy’s arrival in 2015. Five teams – Tulane, Houston, SMU, Boise State and San Diego State – all hail from west of the Mississippi and Memphis sits on the river’s eastern shore.
• In addition, the less prestigious Conference USA has teams in Texas and in West Virginia; the Great West has a team in Utah and a team in New Jersey; the Sun Belt stretches from Florida’s Atlantic coast to Texas’ panhandle; and the WAC covers the same area as the Louisiana Purchase.
Sitting pretty: All this maneuvering should increase sales of college football preview magazines next summer – you need a program to identify the “players.”
Tom Blount retired as editor of the Enterprise in the spring.