'The More Things Change': The Ever-Evolving Landscape of College Football Doesn't Break Emotional Ties – Sports Illustrated

Ever since I've had the capacity for abstract thought, I have loved college football.
Everyone who loves sports comes into that love in different ways. For me, it was genetic, the same as the shade of my eyes and hair color. I wanted to be like my dad in any way I could.
My dad loved football, so I did too. 
That love of football progressed when I was in the first grade. It was then that I received my first college football video game: EA Sports' NCAA Football 2005 on the PlayStation 2. Most of my friends who also grew up with this gaming system have either thrown theirs away or watched it bite the proverbial dust long ago.
Mine, however, still works, along with NCAA 05, and that is what has led me to this exercise.
The old adage "the more things change, the more they stay the same" has applied to the collegiate game for a long time. Gone are the days of various national polls declaring their own national champion. Football, like our world, has evolved with the times, and the latest stage of that evolutionary process has come to our doorsteps this summer in the newest wave of conference expansion.
For many of you, this sport we love has changed more in your lifetime than it has mine, but my acquisition of NCAA 05 has always symbolically marked the beginning of my obsession with the sport in my mind, so I see it as a unique tool in the realm of tracking football's change over the last two decades.
Since Eli Manning's days ended in Oxford with the 2004 Cotton Bowl, football has shifted. Here are some examples.
– In the 2004 season (which NCAA 05 represents), there were 119 Division 1A schools, now referred to as the FBS.
– Navy and Notre Dame were the only 1A Independents in the country. 
– The ACC only had 10 schools.
– The Big 12 actually still had 12 schools. By the time this game hits its 20-year anniversary, at least five of those schools will be in another conference.
– The Big East still sponsored football.
– The Pac-12 was still the Pac-10. 
– The SEC had 12 schools. It will soon grow to hold 16.
You get the point. Football continues to evolve, and it always has in some form or another.
The latest wave of conference expansion may seem foreign to us for a time once the dust settles, and while many of us (self included) rebel against change, history has shown that it is inevitable. This brings me back to my earlier reference: "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Is that still the case?
I would argue, yes. Even in the midst of television networks dictating the steps of individual conferences and, by association, individual teams, college football will continue to be what we all love, even if some of its details shift. The Oklahoma Sooners alum who still remembers the days of the Big Eight conference will root just as hard when his team travels to Oxford as he did when it traveled to Boulder, Colorado.
Even as football continues to change around us, fans of the sport and schools will always be able to hold onto that: their emotional ties with their alma mater. My team is better than your team, conference, etc. That part never changes.
Am I romanticizing an aspect of college football that has become increasingly more corporate in recent decades? Probably, but I would argue that I'm right. The majority of you who read this piece are Ole Miss fans. Breaking the ties with your alma mater and, thus, college football is not something that is easily accomplished.
Even as Manifest Destiny seems to reverse and schools out west head back eastward, it's just another step and storyline in the sport we all love so much.
Will that sport look different in the future? Yes. Will we still love it? Absolutely.
Want the latest in breaking news and insider information on the Rebels? Click Here.
Follow The Grove Report On Facebook and Twitter.
John Macon Gillespie is the publisher of The Grove Report and has experience on the Ole Miss beat spanning five years.


Leave a Comment