The following is a transcript from a fictitious college football panel talk show, the Sour Five. Any resemblance to reality is extremely intentional, but just don’t be a narc about it, OK?
HOST: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Sour Five, your most trusted news source in major college football. I’m your host, the NCAA. As always, I’m joined by the most diverse group of pundits a 30-minute talent search and a string of last-second phone calls could scrounge together. Tonight, we’ll debate all the hot-button issues about which you need to have immutable opinions to remain relevant. It’s our famous segment, Will It Kill College Football? With that said, it’s time to meet our illustrious and definitely unbiased commentators: the SEC, the Big Ten, the ACC, the Big 12, and the Pac-12. Welcome, panelists.
SEC: Hey, y’all.
BIG 12: Howdy. Thrilled to be here.
PAC-12: Well, it’s nice that you’re savoring it while it lasts.
NCAA: Now, now. Why don’t we save that fire for our discussion? Speaking of which, I thought we’d kick things off with our first topic…
NCAA: June of this year, news broke that the Playoff Committee could expand the playoff to 12 teams as early as 2023. Remember when that was the most insane news in college football, and not the 13 other things from this summer? Wild. But I digress. Proponents of the expanded field are saying it will introduce widespread parity across college football. Opponents are saying, “No, it goddamn won’t. Have you even seen Alabama and Clemson? Stop it.” Let’s hear what the Five have to say. Will playoff expansion kill college football?
SEC: I’m just not sure I see the rationale behind it. If we’re looking for a system that finds the most deserving champion, I believe the four-team format already achieves that.
ACC: Oh, come on. You’re only saying that because an SEC school has won the playoff four of seven seasons.
SEC: I mean, yeah. Obviously.
PAC-12: Forget the SEC for a moment. This is a change long overdue. How was a four-team tournament ever going to support a league with five major conferences?
BIG 12: That’s an interesting theory. It’s a real shame we never had five competent conferences to test it. Personally, I’m thrilled for a system that rewards the teams right below the upper crust. How many times have we seen the four seed get blown out in the first round?
ACC: Don’t pretend you don’t know the answer to that, Big 12.
BIG 12: Whatever. My point still stands. Playoff expansion is crucial to the health of the game.
BIG TEN: And what about the Group of Five conferences? How much might expansion help them?
BIG TEN: No, yeah. You’re right, dumb question. My bad.
ACC: We haven’t touched on what this means for realignment. Per the committee’s proposal, only conference champions would get a shot at a first-round bye. This could ultimately be the push that gets a powerhouse like Notre Dame to join a conference.
PAC-12: Ha. You’ve been trying to get Notre Dame football to hop aboard for what, a decade? What makes you think this changes anything?
NCAA: As a matter of fact, I’m glad you mentioned that, ACC. We’ve actually arranged a video call with a real Notre Dame fan so we can truly put our finger on the pulse of the Irish faithful. Panelists, please welcome Howard Thigby, live from Mishawaka, Indiana. Howard, what are your thoughts on Notre Dame finally joining a conference?
THIGBY: *indiscriminate rustling*
ACC: Surely, you could have seen this coming.
NCAA: Howard, pal, we’re going to need you to talk into the other end of the phone.
SEC: And rob our viewers of this pristine shot of what I assume is Howard’s forehead?
NCAA: It appears Howard is having a little trouble with his smartphone.
PAC-12: I imagine Howard would have trouble with a rotary phone. You guys wouldn’t happen to have a lovably spunky telegram boy on payroll, would you?
HOWARD: *three monotone beeps*
NCAA: Folks, unfortunately we seem to have lost Howard. Uh… maybe this is a good time to take a break. We’ll be right back with more unfiltered opinions that can’t be bullied or bought. But first, a few messages from the megacorporations that provide our six-figure salaries.
THE SOUR FIVE THANKS YOU FOR YOUR UNDYING, UNTHINKING PATRONAGE
NCAA: Hello, welcome back to the show, everyone. Friends, you know I don’t like to get personal on this show. However, it’s come to my attention that some among you have elected to form a cross-conference partnership. Of course, we all know about how the SEC will soon acquire—
BIG 12: Steal—
NCAA: —acquire Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12. That’s a big move. Very bold, very cool, very concerning on a fundamental level. All that good stuff. But recently, our own Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 announced a little merger of their own. Is that right?
BIG 12: Excuse me?
BIG TEN: Thank you, NCAA. Yes, the ACC, the PAC-12 and I are thrilled to make this journey into an uncertain future together. Oh, and if you don’t terribly mind, we prefer the term —
BIG 12: Sounds dumb.
ACC: I think it sounds historic.
PAC-12: You might say world-class.
BIG TEN: Indeed, quite indubitably.
NCAA: Alright, now hold on so I can understand this. What exactly does this “alliance” detail?
BIG TEN: I can take this one, guys. You see, we’re trying to foster a relationship that promotes stability and reduces some of the turbulence within college football.
PAC-12: Precisely. Right now, there are just so many issues at the margins within the sport. We want those margins as issue-free as possible.
BIG 12: I’m sorry, but what does literally any of that even mean?
ACC: Look, I know it seems like a lot of technical mumbo jumbo, but at the core of this alliance is a desire to empower student athletes. That’s what it’s always been about.
SEC: Didn’t your highest-paid coach say he was going to quit his job if athletes could make money from NIL deals?
ACC: Next topic, NCAA?
NCAA: Well, it sounds like you three have big plans brewing.
SEC: It will certainly be one of the two best conferences in the league, I’ll say that much.
ACC, BIG TEN and PAC-12: It’s not a conference.
SEC: Ah, gotcha. So sort of like the Big 12 in five years.
BIG 12: This is bullying, right? I’m being bullied, is what’s happening here.
NCAA: It seems as if we’re… uh, up against another commercial break. Let’s continue this great discourse after the break.
THE SOUR FIVE REMINDS YOU TO CONSUME NOW AND QUESTION SPARINGLY, IF AT ALL
NCAA: That brings us to our next subject on Will it Kill College Football:
SEC: What’s that?
SEC: Yes, what can I do for you?
ACC: OK, so we’re not even trying to hide it anymore.
BIG 12: Good lord, SEC. You have to be one of the most self-obsessed conferences on the planet. How can you look at the state of college football and seriously suggest that luring over other conferences’ best schools is healthy for the sport?
SEC: Big 12, I’ll kindly ask you not to discuss business while we’re here.
BIG 12: And I’ll kindly ask you to swallow a screwdriver widthwise.
NCAA: I’m afraid we simply must move on, gentlemen. Last up on the docket tonight is… hm, interesting. According to this cue card, our final topic on Will it Kill College Football? is —
Bowing down to the almighty dollar and feeding media monopolies
NCAA: So, um, what do we say, chums?
ACC and BIG TEN: I think—
BIG TEN: No, you go ahead.
ACC: Please, after you.
PAC-12: Maybe… hm. It’s kind of funny, really, I…
SEC: That’s a super intriguing point, NCAA, but I’d like to throw a curveball. Nobody has mentioned the over 400 Waffle House locations that recently closed throughout the southern United States. I mean, these are huge destinations for traveling fans. What’s going to become of college football without these institutional pillars? Am I right?
BIG 12: You know, I think that’s a great question. Anyone else care to weigh in?
ACC: I’m honestly not feeling too well.
PAC-12: Yeah, does anyone else’s, I don’t know, heart hurt? Like, not the actual heart, but something sort of in that upper stomach, middle chest area?
BIG TEN: Almost like a phantom wound, an aching hole where some source of vitality should be.
PAC-12: Yes, exactly, an aching hole. That’s what I was about to say.
*A solid 15 seconds of excruciating silence, broken only by a distant cough*
*Sour Five outro jingle begins playing*
SEC: Oh, thank Christ.
NCAA: Well, folks, that’s all we have for tonight. We appreciate you tuning in. Remember, no matter how all-consuming or vacuous the darkness may seem, the Sour Five is your guiding light. We’ll be back tomorrow evening, assuming our benevolent network grants it so. Once again, thank you to our lovely panelists for coming out.
BIG 12: I need a Dramamine.
ACC: I think I’d like to call my family.
BIG TEN: None of us have families.
*Cheerful outro theme continues as camera pans up and screen fades to black. The mood is cold. Nothing has been learned*