Hard 'Ball: Debating Pigskin Allegiances

Updated: August 15, 2006, 2:17 PM ET
ESPN.com

College Football



20. Eternal youth
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, whose name has gotten tossed into every NFL coaching search since he left the Ravens staff in 1998, said he likes the college game because he likes to develop young players. The rhythm and arc of a collegiate career embody the fulfillment of potential. It's the same reason we continue to go back to our alma maters. College football reconnects you with the kid you were, when Monday morning meant only a political science class, not the resumption of the mortgage chase.

14. JoePa
Joe Paterno has been at Penn State as assistant (beginning in 1950) and head coach (since 1966) for 56 seasons -- or seven years before the dean of NFL coaches, Bill Cowher, was born.

13. Dynasties
The NFL, thanks to the salary cap, is the last bastion of socialism in the world outside of Cuba. In college football, coaches build something to last. History demands that Michigan must win (or Nebraska or USC). What does history demand of the Carolina Panthers? An introduction.

8. Stadiums
NFL owners hold up their hometowns for state-of-the-art palaces that have as much personality as a downtown skyscraper. Give me old-school (there's a reason that became an adjective) classics like the stadiums at Notre Dame, Ohio State or most any SEC school any day of the week.

And think about this: Which sport has 16 stadiums that average more than 80,000 in attendance? The NFL has none. Which sport has four stadiums that average six figures in attendance? It ain't the Sunday one.

4. The postseason
That's right. I'm defending the BCS. Well, not exactly. I'm defending the lack of a playoff.

Those ugly December games when Peyton Manning plays one series and sits out, as if it were August? In college football, games in August are played as if they're in December.

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NFL

20. Fans
Some college programs still set aside special sections in the stands for the fraternity guys who drink a lot of imported beer they've somehow spirited in, upchuck and make senseless comments about the game unfolding in front of them. Or what they can see of the game. In the NFL, most of those frat-guy boors have long since graduated to the owner's box.

18. Pete Carroll at USC
A couple national championships in five seasons. The second-best winning percentage (54-10, .844) among active coaches with five seasons of college experience. A fat contract. The world at his feet. Pete Carroll in the NFL: One game above the break-even point (34-33) in four seasons. Two playoff berths but never advanced beyond the divisional round. Fired by the New York Jets (after the 1994 season) and the New England Patriots (following the 1999 campaign).

15. Competitive Balance
As much as it's manipulated at times, especially by the high-revenue franchises, the NFL at least has a salary cap, and that helps maintain the ever-critical competitive balance. It's determined by a formula in which the players share the league's overall revenues. The salary cap in the college game is defined by how deep the boosters want to dig into their pockets.

10. Mascots
College game: Bulldogs, bison, bulls and horses are trotted out for games and occasionally leave behind a "gift" that needs to be shoveled up by the grounds crew. NFL: No live animal mascots in attendance, so only the players bomb on the field.

1. Playoffs
Geez, this first one is like shooting fish in a bath tub. With an Uzi in each hand. Let's call it Payoffs versus Playoffs, and you can pretty much figure where we're going here, right? The NCAA has sanctioned 32 bowl games for Division I teams. And at the end of those bowl games, the college participants will have a lot of cash in their coffers, but still might not have a legitimate champion who is beyond debate.

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Welcome to the Jungles

Being a player or coach today is a little like living in a zoo. While we football freaks are human beings most of the time, we really do live our lives on display. Our faces become somewhat recognizable, and people call us by name at the filling station. Throw in classes, labs, study hall, weight lifting and social adjustment at every turn, and the college coach is entrusted with the most remarkable balancing act. This is where fun becomes a necessity.

If football players live in a kind of zoo, college is a petting zoo. The lambs, puppies, rabbits and Shetland ponies are gentle. The campus zoo might have one or two tigers, a rhino and a crocodile, but they are kept in separate cages, unavailable for petting and not allowed to destroy the gentler varieties. They are routinely unleashed only on Saturday afternoons, expected to ravage the opposing animals before being returned to their enclosures.

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SURVEY SAYS
IN MOTION
John Saunders on college football
CHAT
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WEIGHING IN
"I think this comes discussion comes down to which did you like better & your job or college. I think we all know which one we'd pick, and that's college."
Sean Salisbury
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SPORTSNATION
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Which has better fans? | Better rules? | Mailbag
Which college coach would fare best in the NFL?
Which NFL coach would fare best on campus?

IN MOTION
Mark Schlereth on the NFL
WEIGHING IN
"I like both. I'm more of a pro football fan. I go to the Raider games whenever I can. But college football has a great atmosphere."
Joe Morgan
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