It’s not about ducking the Hurricanes.
It’s not about the polls.
It’s not about recruiting, or maintaining a competitive advantage, or grudges, or egos, or enrollments, or anything remotely related to the original mission of intercollegiate athletics.
It’s not about the students, and it sure as heck ain’t about the “student-athletes.”
It’s not about the fans, and it’s not about football.
None of those things matters anymore.
The University of Florida no longer will schedule games with the University of Miami for one reason and one reason only: money. Like everything else that has been cheapened and made plastic about this eroding cultural treasure known as college football, it’s no longer about Johnny Football. It’s about Johnny Cash.
Upon speaking with Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley this week about the chances of the oldest rivalry in the state of Florida being renewed. I had this crazy idea: every year, play the game that everyone wants.
Here’s what he said, more or less: Can’t be done.
To be specific, Foley said his athletic department has “set aside money the last four years” in order to play Miami and still has to pay the bills. In other words, in this brave new world of college football, the Florida Gators will play the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday at Sun Life Stadium in a game that’s bad for business.
Repeat for emphasis: a game that’s bad for business.
“I’m never going to say never,” Foley said. “But to add Miami on a regular basis, I think you’ve got to be careful there.”
“Be careful there” means Foley doesn’t think his program can do without the extra gate money of a seventh home game every season. If that’s the case, then this sport is in serious trouble. How are you going to pay student-athletes if you can’t even keep the lights on at The Swamp?
That last bit was meant as sarcasm, I hope.
Personally, Foley probably would love for the Gators to play the Canes every season. He understands the game’s importance to the state. Heck, the Seminoles — the real ones, not the college variety — carved a war canoe in the 1950s to honor the passion behind the game. A bit of Miami-vs.-Florida trivia: the Hollywood Seminole who carved that canoe was named Henry Jumper.
Instate rivalries are the lifeblood of college football. They’re what made this sport great. But let’s not speak of love and culture and tradition when the only language that is worth uttering any longer is business speak. Financially, this transaction is just not a solvent option given the parameters of the University of Florida’s business model.
That sounds disgusting, I know. English as ipecac, right? Well, it gets worse.
“If the [Southeastern Conference] ever went to nine games,” Foley said, “it would almost be impossible” to ever schedule the Hurricanes.
All signs point to the SEC making plans to add a ninth conference game for the 2016 season, but that shouldn’t mean a permanent end to the Miami-Florida game.
There are plenty of challenges that come with playing two instate national powerhouses every season, but a case can be made that a round-robin schedule among Miami, Florida and Florida State — regardless of the number of conference games each team plays — might actually benefit the Canes, Gators and Noles in the future.
The college football playoffs begin next season and, for the first 12 years of its existence, will consist of four teams chosen by a 15- to 18-person selection committee.
“The great unknown is who is on it and what metrics are going to be used. None of us know,” Foley said. “The biggest question mark is, how are they going to judge everybody? It can’t just be an eyeball test.”
Foley would like to see the selection process based on “strength of schedule — who you play and where you play them … like the NCAA Tournament.”
In that case, it would only make sense to have the strongest schedule possible. If Florida played UM and FSU every season, then, more often than not, it would have one of the strongest schedules in the country. Considering that only four teams are going to make the playoffs, it shouldn’t take too much of an imagination to envision a scenario where it wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Gators to have a better nonconference schedule than their SEC rivals.
Most schools only have the pleasure of enjoying one colossal instate rivalry every year. In this state, the tradition of college football is twice as rich.
I know, I know.
Something that obvious makes absolutely no sense when the whole point of college football is to make dollars and cents with home games against Cupcake U.