NFL preseason games are a rip-off. No one debates that. Fans pay full prices to watch glorified scrimmages, often among young men who will soon be returning to their homes to begin careers as plumbers, sportscasters, car salesmen and other jobs performed by folks like you and me.
But the NFL exhibitions aren’t the biggest rip-off is the big-time sports world. No, that distinction goes to most of the non-conference games played by college football’s elite. Fans pay large booster fees just for the right to buy tickets at such schools as Florida State and Florida. In most cases a 6- or 7-game home schedule will feature three games, at best, worthy of their cost. And it’s getting worse.
After examining the 56 non-conference games played by SEC schools, I determined the most games SEC teams could lose are 14 – and that’s if they lose every game where the opponent has a decent chance of winning. The ACC’s 56 non-conference games include 15 similar games. That means only about 25 percent of the non-conference games are competitive. Now that’s a rip-off.
It also creates the most unfair aspect of college football and is why a team’s record should be examined carefully and not taken at face value. Not all 10-2 teams, for example, are equal.
In the SEC, for instance, Vanderbilt’s non-conference games are against Austin Peay, UAB, UMass and Wake Forest. Meanwhile, Florida plays Miami and FSU and “only” two patsies, Toledo and Georgia Southern. Tennessee plays Oregon, but should have little trouble with Austin Peay (which apparently is looking for this to be a profitable year), Western Kentucky and South Alabama. Texas A&M non-SEC games are against Rice, Sam Houston, SMU and Texas-El Paso. (I’ll bet the Aggies won’t need Johnny Football for those games.)
Over in the ACC, FSU fans will be treated to home games against Nevada, Bethune-Cookman and Idaho. N.C. State fans can enjoy watching Louisiana Tech, Richmond, Central Michigan and East Carolina, while Clemson has to play SEC powers Georgia and South Carolina. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
I could go on and on, but the picture doesn’t improve.
Most power school argue they have to play these non-conference “gimmes” because they need the home games to meet their budgets and, besides, the “everybody else is doing it”. Both arguments have some merit but that doesn’t make it right.
Fans have complained forever but in recent years their whining has started showing up at the box office. The Gators are a great example of this. In 2011 the school’s box office was open a couple of times on game day for the first time in several decades. Okay, the Gators were struggling through a 7-6 season. But last year the number of empty seats increased even though the Gators went 11-1. This year the school’s marketing department has been busy trying to sell tickets. Sellouts are no longer the norm.
Part of the problem is every games is now televised and improved technology has made watching games on TV so good, but the bigger issue an unwillingness to pay big bucks to watch opponents like Georgia Southern.
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