Hurray, yet Jerry World is host of yet another major college football event. I can hardly contain my excitement.
ESPN PR announced the College Gameday Week 1 destination for the first football Saturday of the College Football Playoff era. Consider me superstitious, but this is an ominous way for the driven media force behind the new phase in college football history to begin: spurning a college campus venue for that monument to corporate excess, AT&T Stadium.
Why care so much? you might be rightfully wondering. It’s a bit childish to allow the broadcast location of a pregame show affect me. But then, starting fall Saturdays with College Gameday, coming live from a college campus, is a tradition that dates back to my childhood.
I have fond memories of eating pancakes and scrambled eggs alongside my dad in the mid-1990s, during the show’s fledgling years. So yes, I do evaluate it from a childlike lens.
As the flagship show of each college football Saturday, College Gameday has a weird way of setting the tone. Consider the program’s broadcast from Houston in 2011, notorious for Lee Corso shouting “fuck it,” into a live microphone while making his weekly mascot-head pick.
This was somehow the perfect prologue to a Saturday that featured Robert Griffin III’s proverbial Heisman moment against Oklahoma. That same game day saw USC stun Oregon in Autzen Stadium, effectively ending the Ducks’ national championship bid.
I enjoy the show and it just fits because it’s genuine. And this is the quality that separates college football from the NFL. While I enjoy both, the college game feels more organic. It’s the difference between a locally brewed IPA and a mass-produced lager.
Perhaps the analogy is absurd given the billions of dollars changing hands in college football. Indeed, money has made Jerry World a prominent destination on the college football scene, and money fuels the NFL-ization of the college game.
AT&T Stadium is the quintessential NFL venue: domed, built at a cost that vastly exceeded the projections thus leaving taxpayers to foot a nine-figure bill, now sporting a corporate sponsorship. And the venue has managed to force its way into the forefront of college football, hosting the first College Football Playoff championship and brokering one-off nonconference games like USC vs. Alabama.
Regular readers of The College Football Huddle might notice a theme: I fear some of college football’s incremental changes are building a sport that, 10-20 years from now, will more closely resemble the NFL. That is to say, a game where every team and each venue is lacking identity, rather existing as interchangeable parts.
Of course, this year’s Cowboys Classic is not the first to host the College Gameday Week 1 broadcast. The show took to Arlington in 2012–and this year’s installment should be quite a bit like that Alabama-Michigan game, in fact: Defending national champion Florida State is likely to trounce a woefully overmatched power-conference opponent in a snoozer.
Don’t expect a repeat of last year’s College Gameday Week 1, which opened the season from Death Valley. The rocking crowd at Clemson remained electric through one of the most exciting games of the season, and fans swarmed the field after the Tigers’ defeat of Georgia.
ESPN is passing on the return engagement Between The Hedges. The network won’t have to worry about its showcase game ending with exuberant college kids on the field; there’s no way security at Jerry World would allow that to happen should Oklahoma State pull off an unlikely upset.
To borrow a phrase from College Gameday Lee Corso: Fuck it.