Big-picture takeaways from B1G Media Days
That’s a wrap on Big Ten Media Days. It was great to have this back after that 1-year hiatus. But gosh, it was a little rude of the SEC to steal the headlines this week, right? They already have 4 days to themselves.
In all seriousness, the talk of conference realignment is endlessly interesting, at least to me. Possibilities that I never considered, like Texas and Oklahoma joining the freaking SEC, now seem like foregone conclusions. News broke Friday that Kansas was meeting with the Big Ten, which makes a lot sense geographically — just not really for football. (But maybe it would help the B1G end its NCAA Tournament drought?)
The backdrop of all of that was some interesting discussions on some of the other big issues in college football this season: Playoff expansion, vaccines and NIL. Here are 3 takeaways on those topics from Friday:
1. College football is in transition
OSU coach Ryan Day acknowledged as much, saying, “We may wake up in 5 years and not recognize college football. There’s so many giant things going on right now.”
Day is exactly right. This sport is changing at warp speed, and the days of needing to go undefeated to win a national championship (or even split a national championship!) are long gone.
As Day acknowledged, the the approach to the season will change under the proposed 12-team CFP format. These are interesting things to ponder, in retrospect. In 2014 when Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech in Week 2, it felt like do-or-die the rest of the season. And that worked out for the Buckeyes, who wound up running the table and winning the national title. They expended a ton of energy in demolishing Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game just to sneak into the CFP as the No. 4 seed. In the 12-team format, the starters would’ve been sitting the second half in order to get ready for a quarterfinal CFP game.
As with anything, those who don’t adjust to change will be left behind. The best (Nick Saban) are able to adapt to new circumstances.
2. More vaccine discussion
This discussion regarding players getting the vaccine doesn’t seem like it’s going to go away anytime soon. You’ve probably seen the headlines regarding NFL players like DeAndre Hopkins who are against it being mandated in order to play.
I’m no medical expert and won’t judge anyone either way, but I think it’s worth mentioning that coaches are going to take vaccination status into account. Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said that when looking at playing time decisions, projected availability, like vaccination status, will factor in. That will likely incentivize some players to get vaccinated, but we have seen some people defiant in their anti-vaccination stance. Several NFL coaches left their teams Friday because they weren’t vaccinated, and others like Hopkins seem ready to challenge the NFL. Will college players do the same?
Indiana coach Tom Allen said, “The bottom line is, it’s a decision they have to make. Life is about choices, and you have to understand the consequences of those choices.”
Fair or not, this is going to impact playing time. It’s going to be a storyline all year long.
3. NIL will affect the locker room dynamic
One of the most interesting parts of this college football season — and the next few years, quite frankly — will be how NIL impacts teams. I touched on this Thursday a little bit with how it will be fascinating to see which markets are better served to capitalize on this; will Minnesota and Northwestern be better off in their big cities (but with other pro teams), or will Nebraska and Iowa be more equipped because their players will be the biggest celebrities in town (and maybe even the state).
Another thing to consider is what Day touched on Friday during his media session. He said that he thinks there should be some sort of profit-sharing program in place for players where a business puts up a pool of money and it is spread out among some of the other players on the team. This comes on the heels of Alabama coach Nick Saban mentioning that QB Bryce Young is going to earn close to $1 million through NIL — and he hasn’t even started a game yet.
Day acknowledged that Ohio State’s QB will have a similar opportunity, though he hasn’t named a starter yet (more on that below). It seems to me that Day is considering the dynamic this will create in the locker room. These are college kids, after all, and jealousy is natural and hard to avoid. Thayer Munford, for example, is a 4-year starter on the offensive line, yet he won’t command near the same money on the open market.
A profit-sharing system seems more like the players would capitalize on the team’s brand, rather than their own name, image and likeness.
Here are his relevant quotes on the matter:
“Those things happen and will come naturally, but I do think we need to consider down the road, somewhere along the line, maybe it’s a year from now, figuring out how we spread some of that money out,” Day said. “Certainly the quarterback at Ohio State is going to have unbelievable opportunities, the wide receiver, the running back, there’s going to be certain positions.
“However, how do we find ways to make sure we disseminate that throughout the team? Because there’s a lot of guys out there who are also playing football, guys who are blocking for the quarterback, guys who are covering the wide receivers.
“Say they put $3 million into an account, and then you could work with Ohio State, and they split that money to everybody, so that the quarterback isn’t the only one,” Day said. “Now if the quarterback wants to do a deal on his own, great, but if not, it all gets spread evenly to everybody. If it’s a group deal, you can use the Ohio State logo and the trademarking. The NCAA would have to OK that because now we can’t do that. But it seems more sustainable to me.
“It seems like that would help the left tackle or the left guard get $10,000.”
It’s going to be fascinating to see where this all goes. No one knows. As Day also said, “It’s like driving a car without breaks.”
Buckle up, because college football is changing.