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College Football vs. Hoops

October 10, 2003 Columns No Comments

College Football is Nice, but . . .

by Michael Ermitage

It was early September and a fresh college football season was born anew. Chris Fowler was back again playing his referee role to the sparring Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit. I was planted firmly on the couch, shorts and socks, with an iced tea on the TV tray. The premiere games of the week involved Notre Dame vs. Washington State, Florida at Miami and Oklahoma at Alabama. With a decade of finely tuned Saturday football watching experience, I adeptly flipped from game to game, rarely missing a big play and never watching a commercial. My Purdue team was not televised, and I relied on the “Bottom Line” to keep me updated (by the way, let’s all toast the creator of the Bottom Line, what a fabulous idea. Why did it take so long for them to realize it would be a good idea to show during commercials?!?!).

I wasn’t worried though, it was sure to be an early-season laugher against Bowling Green. But waiting from agonizing update to agonizing update, I realized that the game was no laugher. And as the final moments passed, I leaned forward frantically in my seat nervously twisting my hair, only to see the dreaded 27-26 final, a Bowling Green victory. That’s it. Season over. Purdue’s national championship game hopes all but snuffed out before the first frost hits the ground. This is why college football is vastly inferior to college basketball. Well, that, among a plethora of other reasons….

Stupid BCS – The BCS is essentially a one-game playoff between the two “best” teams. Therefore, only a select number of schools are in the running. Does anybody really think that if Northern Illinois runs the table that they’ll be in the BCS Championship game? Even the second-class football schools in the major conferences are discriminated against. A one-loss Missouri or a one-loss Oregon State is not quite as attractive to “voters” as a one-loss Nebraska or a one-loss UCLA.

Cheerleaders – Why are there cheerleaders for football? Can anyone see what they are doing or care? Thankfully, college cheerleaders have not been reduced to the status of NFL leer-leaders. I have to pose this question – What percentage of NFL cheerleaders moonlight as strippers?

The “Louisiana-Monroe” phenomenon – Since there is virtually no incentive for college teams to schedule tough non-conference opponents, they don’t. The Indians of Louisiana-Monroe have lost a total of five games against major Division I teams the last two years by a score of 259-38. This is fun for no one. And while college basketball has its early-season “Cupcake City Babeee,”(per Dickie V.) it is beneficial for a team to schedule tougher games. And they do. Indiana will play Vanderbilt, Xavier, Wake Forest, Missouri, Notre Dame, Butler and Kentucky in its preseason schedule. Even better, they’ll play those teams all in a row. And even better than that, only two of those games are on the Hoosiers’ home court.

Good strategy rarely beats good talent – In college football, the superior-talented team probably wins about 80 percent of the time, if not more. The fact is that a team with bigger, faster, stronger players is going to physically whip a smaller, slower, weaker team. Strategy plays almost zero part in the outcome of the game. But, in college basketball, strategy can be everything. Temple and its matchup zone. Princeton and its patented motion offense. Utah and its multiple zone defenses. These are not the most talented teams, however, they’re often the most difficult “outs” in March.

Money. Sure, college hoops is big time. But it is nothing compared to the large-scale dollars football brings to universities. And more importantly, it costs nearly next to nothing to have a basketball team compared to football. This is why there are only 100+ Division 1-A football teams but more than 300+ college basketball teams. This allows the Valpos, the College of Charlestons, and the Colgates to field a competitive hoops team despite having miniscule enrollments. And not only do the smaller schools get to participate, but so do the mid-sized schools. Schools such as DePaul, Georgetown, and Marquette have outstanding basketball resumes with no football team.

Coaches. While there are some characters pacing the sidelines in college football, they are not quite as entertaining as their basketball brethren. Bob Knight, Rick Pitino, John Calipari, John Chaney, Tom Izzo, Tubby Smith, Roy Williams, Eddie Sutton, Dr. Tom Davis, and Homer Drew – these men define their programs more than their players do.

Day vs. Night. Football games are all-day events. They’re a celebration of sport. From tailgating to bar-close, you can make a day of a college football game. And that’s all good. But since nearly every game is played on the same day, it is hard for any one game to capture the nation’s attention. There’s something about your school being in the prime-time game on ESPN late in the season on Thursday night. For one night, everyone turns its attention to that campus, to that story line, to that game.

No helmets. It’s all about emotion. You’d never see Dee Brown’s huge smile if he was wearing a helmet. You’d also miss every scowl, every tear, and every cringe of pain. Helmets deny the public from sharing in the emotion of the game. This goes for the entire uniform. In football, you can pretty much only tell the difference between players by their number or by size. In basketball, you have crazy hair, good tattoos, crazy socks, massive scars, knobby knees and bushy eyebrows. Imagine if Donovan McNabb played hoops with that fro – he’d be ten times more popular.

Now, of course, there are some things that are much better in college football than college basketball. The video games are better. Gambling is easier. Traveling to see your alma mater is easier. And for guys, there’s something more masculine about telling people you like football better than basketball. There’s always that uncomfortable pause if you tell the macho guy in your office you prefer hoops to football. But the fact remains that every team in college football sitting with one loss or more is almost guaranteed of not playing for the national championship. College football games are a nice spectacle. They’re great for all-day drinking. And even better for bragging rights over your co-workers and friends. But for sport, I’ll take college hoops every time.


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