When I enrolled at Ole Miss way back in 1997, one of the appeals was big-time SEC college football. The pomp, pageantry, and tradition complemented the Rebel Yell the bourbon brand as well as the shouting. Students woke up early, not for class, but only to be sufficiently drunk for noon kickoffs. The whole battlefield camaraderie sucked me in further to where Saturday starts to shape your identity and outlook on life.My first game I attended in North Carolina occurred years before I lived here. My friends who were UNC Chapel Hill alums invited me to a match against Clemson. Ole Miss friends said, “it’s not SEC, you won’t like it.” That wasn’t true though, besides, Carolina won a thriller. Football is football and each school and traditions are unique.I faithfully followed David Cutcliffe’s progress at Duke after an inept Ole Miss administration sent him packing. I’m invested, which brings me to the main point. Now that I realize the purity myth of the college game, a few changes are desperately needed.Shorten the gamesOne of the obnoxious and growing trends now in college football is the multi-millionaire coach calling out students and fans for leaving early. It usually goes something like this: “If we want to be a big-time program, we need every empty seat filled until the final whistle,” with a dig at anybody, who spent their own money by the way, but then dared to leave early.In what is getting even more ridiculous, many televised games now extend beyond four hours. While there may not be a broad agreement on how to accomplish the feat for shorter games, one way might be shortening halftime by eight minutes to reflect the NFL’s 12 minutes. Sorry North Carolina State fans, you’ll just have to work quicker to smuggle in more liquor. Perhaps continuously running the clock, at least until the final two minutes of each half, is the right way.Compensate playersAnother emerging trend we saw at the end of this season was potential early-round NFL picks announcing they would forego their bowl games. “I have to prepare for the draft,” or “it’s just a business decision,” they say. While quitting is always a bad look, it’s hard to blame players who have millions of dollars on the line.It’s time though to move away from something that resembles a plantation system for top-tier athletes and allow for some forms of compensation. A student on an academic scholarship is in no way inhibited from using his skills and talent to seek compensation. Players should be at least able to receive compensation for autographs from sports memorabilia individuals already profiting off signatures. Even obscure student-athletes in small programs through licensing agreements could then receive money for their names and images used in video games. Maybe then we can better discern, as one Alabama football player announced at fall practice, “Today we see who is here to play football or here for the college education.”Expand playoffsPlayoff expansion may have to be done gradually, such as adding four teams next year and possibly four more later. This could promote parity, at least by giving more programs a realistic chance at the national championship. College football is exciting because its continuation of community and storied traditions. Most aspects should be preserved and not changed, but improving the experience is a commitment to the preservation of a worldly passion and joy for millions.Ray Nothstine is a member of the North State Journal’s editorial board, separate from the news staff. Unlike other newspapers, the North State Journal does not publish unsigned editorials; the author or authors of every editorial, letter, op-ed, and column is prominently displayed. To submit a letter or op-ed, see our submission guidelines.
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