- Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Writer
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There isn't much I hate about college football, the world's greatest sport.
Well, other than the offseason, which already seems months old. (When does spring practice begin?). And game-day traffic. And 8 p.m. ET kickoffs. And bad press-box food.
Put me in a college football stadium press box on Saturday afternoon, and I'm more giddy than a 13-year-old at a Miley Cyrus concert.
But my favorite sport isn't perfect. I still hate the way college football determines its national champion. I hate that the first couple of weekends of the season produce 63-0 routs of overmatched opponents. I hate that New Year's Day still isn't the most meanful day on the college football calendar.
Here's my list of things I hate about college football:
1. The BCS: It's too easy a choice, but I, like many college football fans out there, would rather see the national championship settled on the playing field. If the BCS couldn't give me Texas playing Florida for the BCS national championship last season, at least give me the Longhorns playing Southern California in the Rose Bowl. I would have preferred to see Georgia play USC in the 2008 Rose Bowl, instead of watching the Bulldogs rout overmatched Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl, and USC pounding another Big Ten team in Pasadena. I'm not saying college football needs a full-blown playoff, but a plus-one system would at least be a start.
2. National signing day: College football programs pampering high school recruits with fine meals, fancy hotel rooms and pretty "hostesses" is bad enough. Isn't a free college tuition enough incentive? But why is an 18-year-old high school player's college choice national news? Recruiting services have turned into a multi-million-dollar cottage industry, and their unscientific rankings put unnecessary expectations on incoming freshman. A few five-star recruits turn out to be star players in their first seasons and later become All-Americans. But too many players never realize their lofty potential, and are widely considered "busts" before they turn 21. Next thing we know, college football recruiting will be as bad as the seedy world of college basketball recruiting. I'd gladly start each February without seeing an 18-year-old kid choose from among five hats.
3. Celebration restrictions: College presidents and conference commissioners consistently tell us they don't want a playoff because they want college football's regular season to matter more than those of any other sport. So with so much on the line each and every Saturday in the fall, can we really blame players for being really excited to play in those games? I don't want wide receivers dancing in the end zone and pulling off scripted celebrations like those in the NFL. But I want players to be jumping for joy after scoring touchdowns and sacking quarterbacks. Now the NCAA football rules committee wants coaches to weigh turning dead-ball celebration penalties into live-ball fouls, which would actually take points off the scoreboard. I'd love to see that game official make it out of town.
4. Nonconference schedules: Thank goodness for neutral-site games like Virginia Tech playing Alabama in Atlanta, and BYU playing Oklahoma in Dallas. If not, the first two or three weeks of the season would include nothing more than college football powers playing FCS opponents and other overmatched teams. I hate that more SEC schools won't play north of the Mason-Dixon Line, which would finally settle the SEC vs. Big Ten debate. I hate that we can't see more Big 12 defenses playing SEC offenses, and vice versa. I hate that more BCS teams don't have the guts to play at places like BYU, Boise State and Utah. I wish there were more programs willing to play anyone, anywhere, anytime.
5. Conference alignments: I hate the divisional alignments of some of college football's best conferences. I wish the ACC, Big 12 and the SEC would go back to the drawing board and remap their divisions. I wish Florida, Georgia and Tennessee didn't all play in the SEC East. I wish Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech didn't all play in the Big 12 South. I wish Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech still played in the Big East, which isn't nearly as good without them. I wish Notre Dame played in the Big Ten. I wish Boise State and Utah played in the Pac-10, so USC would be tested more than once or twice every season.
6. Conference championship games: If the ACC, Big 12 and SEC are going to play conference championship games at the end of each regular season, the Big East, Big Ten and Pac-10 need to do the same. Obviously, the Big East would have to add at least two schools and the Big Ten would need one more to balance its divisions. But if teams like Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma are going to put their BCS chances on the line in a 13th game, then it's not fair that schools such as Michigan, Ohio State and USC don't do the same. There are risks and rewards to playing in a conference championship game, but it's not fair that teams watching at home can benefit even more.
7. Lack of head coaching diversity: I hate that capable African-American coaches like Buffalo's Turner Gill aren't given a fair chance to lead a great BCS program. I hate that Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, another African-American, can't get any head-coaching job. I hate that other African-American coaches are judged by the failures of coaches like Ron Prince and Tyrone Willingham. College football's lack of diversity in its coaching ranks is its biggest black eye. Sadly, the sport has done very little to try to correct it.
8. The bowl season: There's nothing wrong with playing 32 bowl games. It gives me something to do once the regular season ends. But more than anything else, I miss New Year's Day meaning more than any other day of the year. I miss waking up on the first day of the year to the Cotton Bowl and going to bed with the Orange Bowl. I miss watching the most meaningful bowl games on one day, and knowing at the end which team is college football's national champion. I hate having to wait an extra day for the Sugar Bowl and four days for the Fiesta Bowl. I especially hate having to wait another week for the BCS National Championship Game.
9. The death of radio: Cable TV helps to pay my bills, but I hate that I don't listen to college football games on the radio anymore. I miss getting into my car for a road trip on Saturday and listening to the iconic radio voices of long ago. I miss hearing the legendary voices of Larry Munson, John Ward, Jim Phillips, Jim Fyffe, John Ferguson and Al Ciraldo. I love being able to watch as many games as I want on TV on seemingly any day of the week, but I still believe there's nothing better than having the game described to you by a very good radio play-by-play announcer. There are still some very good radio voices out there, but the game still doesn't sound as clear anymore -- even when you're listening to satellite radio.
10. Cookie-cutter coaches: I hate that there aren't more coaches like Texas Tech's Mike Leach, who is way too smart for his profession (and probably his own good). I hate that more coaches won't show their true colors (unless, of course, it's Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy). I hate that too many coaches are too paranoid to reveal their personalities and are too consumed by the task at hand. I hate that more coaches don't like pirates and Geronimo. I hate that there aren't more colorful coaches in college football. At least we have Tennessee's Lane Kiffin now -- that will be fun to watch.
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
2dAndrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna