Thursday, July 25, 2019

College Football, A Primer: Football in America

Today once again we're talking college football. Today we'll talk about football in America and college sports.

See here for the previous post.

College Sports

There are two college sports that get the most attention: football and basketball. More colleges have basketball teams than football teams, probably because it's cheaper to have a basketball team. I don't know of any college with a football team that doesn't also have a basketball team.

There are regional preferences, too. In the Southeast, high school and college football come right after God and guns in the order of importance. In the Midwest, basketball is king.

But there are a lot more sports in college than that. And there are sports for both men and women. For example, the University of Washington has nine men's sports and eleven women's sports.

Warning: This is a world fraught with acronyms and jargon. I'll try to explain any acronyms and jargon as they come up.

Football in America

In the United States, there are three basic levels of football: high school (sometimes called "prep"), college, and professional (i.e., the National Football League or NFL). Of course there's peewee football for younger kids and semi-professional and professional offshoots such as arena football.

The progression is high school football, then college football, then going "pro" in the NFL. But, only 5% of high school kids make it to the college level, and only 5% of college players make it to the NFL. That means as a high school player, your odds of going pro are 0.25%.

High school players are recruited into the colleges. That is, the colleges go out and try to entice the kid to play for their college. This is a bit unfair as the best teams can recruit the best players. Alabama, who is perpetually the national champion or close to it, has much easier time of recruiting good players than Washington State University that is an okay team but is rarely highly ranked nationally. The job of the coach is to convince as good as players as possible to come to his program.

Ultimately, the kid (and probably his parents) decides where he will go. If a kid wants to play in the NFL (and they almost all do), he's going to want to go to a good school that gets on television a lot. That would be a good FBS team in a Power 5 conference (see "The Conference System" next week).

College kids are "drafted" into the NFL. They have to have been out of high school for three years. The NFL gives their teams a chance to draft college players. The worst NFL teams get the earlier picks and therefore the better players. This is the NFL's way of trying to make it fairer. The player has to go with the team that drafts him for a number of years (I believe that's negotiable but there's probably a minimum) and then becomes a "free agent" and can go to the highest bidder. So he wants to do well at his first team so he's in demand when he's a free agent.

And just this year something called the American Alliance of Football (AAF) started playing in February after the NFL Super Bowl. The AAF was nothing but free agents looking to impress NFL scouts. The AAF even admitted it's trying to help its players get into the NFL. And the NFL must not have minded, they showed games on the NFL Network. The AAF  brought in coaches that are well-known from college and/or the NFL. That probably helped the quality of play. Unfortunately, it went broke near the end of its first season.

Next year the XFL is supposed to start again. That's the "Extreme Football League."  They had one season in 2001. I watched one game and all I remember is lots of salacious shots of cheerleaders. But it's supposed to be back in 2020.

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