Now that the collegiate championship has been settled, not even LSU and Clemson coaches (and players) will get any time off.
It will be business as usual with players locking into their offseason routine and coaches moving on to the next recruiting class while preparing for spring practice.
College football coaches, certainly in terms of hours spent on the phone with recruits, while practice planning and giving due diligence to tape study, earn their big salaries.
The game has become an intense, year-round exercise, but nobody is complaining, especially those being compensated at one of the Power Five conferences.
However, year-round football is nothing new. When the 1939 Orange Bowl ended with Tennessee upsetting Oklahoma in a game which is remembered as the game “that made the Orange Bowl,” the Volunteer players were naturally celebrating gleefully. Their coach the legendary Bob Neyland congratulated them but had this reminder: “Spring practice starts next week.”
Following the Orange Bowl Jan. 1, 1942, Georgia’s first bowl game, everyone was giddy and euphoric. When the team returned home from Miami there was a note on the bulletin board in the dormitory that spring practice would begin a week later.
“Not me,” said Frank Sinkwich who then quit the team. He later came back and won the Heisman trophy, leading his team to the Rose Bowl.
Today’s athletes have a heavy diet of offseason work which they don’t resist. After all they come to campus today first and foremost, to be trained for the National Football League.
They don’t mind lifting weights daily to become bigger and stronger. They don’t object to running wind sprints. Honing their skills for the play-for-pay opportunity has a residual that they have become passionate about.
It would be difficult to imagine how the colleges could be more accommodating to the NFL. Colleges have become the minor leagues for the pro teams. Again, nothing new.
We have adjusted the offenses to where there is not much of a learning curve when a player is drafted. We recruit players with ideal professional dimensions. We play the throw and catch game which flourishes in the NFL.
It is obvious that after Monday night’s game in New Orleans there is not anyone who follows college football that does not realize that in all likelihood LSU’s Joe Burrow, by the time the next NFL season begins, will never have to work again — unless he goes off the deep end and blows what is coming to him in the next few months. You would think that a guy who, in this past college season, could manage defenses as Burrow did, would be able to manage his money.
Even linemen are making big bucks. The Titans Taylor Lewan is the highest paid NFL lineman who makes $16 million annually, but still less than the highest paid player who is Russell Wilson of Seattle who pulls down $35 million a year. With incomes like that who needs to spend time in class? Class is only to stay eligible, making sure you have time to showcase your talent for the NFL draft.
Who needs the college experience with those dollars dangling in your vision? You can buy a lot of “experiences” with that kind of money. Those of us who never had that option available to us, will always remember our days on campus as the best days of our lives.
We remember the friends we made, the classes we took, when and where we met the one who became our lifetime partner. We can’t wait to go back to reunions and homecomings. We glory in the accomplishments of alma mater and in many cases, as we are successful, we give back to the institution to ensure that it can enhance its mission for teaching others to become productive citizens.
Much of the college experience goes missing with today’s current athletes who may not be the smartest students on campus but they know that there is a very short window for them to make the millions they aspire to pocket.
They are eager to come to campus, but are more eager to depart — for the NFL. They brush aside the reality that the NFL acronym really means, “not for long.” That is the way it will be for most of our Saturday heroes.
College football has created a different culture. The fall season of 2020 will be the 40th anniversary of Georgia’s winning the 1980 national championship. You remember the Erk Russell T-shirts that characterized those national champions: BIG TEAM, little me.
Today, it has become BIG ME, little team.