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College Football is Losing its Character

AUTHOR

Allen West

DATE

January 3, 2024

Happy New Year everyone! I pray y’all are set for a very interesting and engaging 2024. There will be plenty of time to discuss political issues in this crucial year. However, after being exposed to our traditional deluge of college football bowl games, I have some insights, perspectives, and thoughts to share.

For those who do not know, I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Growing up down south, in the fall there are two faiths — SEC college football, and, of course, being a Christian. I grew up in a family where we were glued to the television on Saturday watching SEC college football, and, naturally, Sunday started with Sunday school and church. I have often been asked why I attended the University of Tennessee. Well, there are several reasons. First, at the time, and up to today, Tennessee has one of the best Army ROTC programs in the country. They have been training military officers on ol’ Rocky Top since 1844. My dad told me at the age of 15 that he wanted me to be a commissioned Army officer. Secondly, I remember watching the original “The Alamo” movie with Dad, starring John Wayne, Richard Widmark, and Laurence Harvey. That was when I learned about the nickname Tennessee Volunteers, and who would not want to be part of that legacy and earn that title?

But there was another factor that played into my decision to attend the University of Tennessee: Condredge Holloway, ole #7. Holloway was the first Black quarterback to play in the SEC and the checkerboard end zone. Well, how cool. I remember seeing Neyland Stadium, named after General Robert Neyland, for the first time. In my freshman year, our Volunteers upset #13 Notre Dame on November 10, 1979, 40-18. It was the first time the Irish had come to Knoxville, and the little fella from the Old Fourth Ward in Atlanta was in the stands. In my senior year, 1982, the third Saturday in October, Alabama came to town. The Volunteers had lost twelve straight to the Crimson Tide who were #2 in the country. The Vols won 35-28 as a friend of mine, also from Atlanta, Mike Terry, intercepted a Walter Lewis pass in the end-zone with 17 seconds remaining. Little did we know it would be the renowned Paul “Bear” Bryant’s last season coaching college football. He died less than a year later.

So many memories, like the voice of the Volunteers, Johnny Ward announcing “It’s football time in Tennessee” as the Vols ran onto the field through the block “T.”

I am sure many of you have fond memories of college football games, but I feel college football is losing its character. It is now more focused on the money and less about the tradition, the loyalty, and the “scholar” part of scholar-athlete. I do not like the “transfer portal” gimmick which is turning college football into a mini-NFL with free agency. The fact that as soon as the college football regular season ended, there were thousands of college football players seeking to transfer to another school. Guys like Roland James, Condredge Holloway, Reggie White, Bill Bates, Willie Gault, Stanley Morgan, who wore the Tennessee orange were Volunteers. And I am sure y’all can reflect back on those players who stayed at their alma mater, win or lose. As well, there were venerable coaches who stayed with their teams like Bear Bryant, Joe Paterno, Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes, John McKay, Frank Broyles, Darryl Royal, Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer, Vince Dooley, Shug Jordan, Tom Osborne, Bobby Bowden, Ara Parseghian, Lou Holtz, and Steve Spurrier . . .

This revolving door of the transfer portal is ruining the character of college football because these young men become hired gunslingers. They go from school to school, seeking personal fame, not loyalty to a team.

And when did this “opt out” thing come about? I watched so many teams that were depleted because the so-called “star” players opted out of playing in bowl games. Ya know, in the military, a soldier does not get to opt out when duty calls. These kids are more concerned about their pro football tryouts and just abandon their teammates. I think we need to teach these kids a lesson that in life, you do not get to opt out to get your way. You don’t get to run away from adversity, jumping into a mythical portal that transports you to a better place, the “Land of College Football Oz.”

What is it with this NIL (name, image, likeness) thing? First, I do not think any college athlete’s uniform should have their name on the back. I like how West Point does it, the back of their uniform says one thing, “Army.” Why does a certain player get to make millions while others do not? Yes, I agree that there should be a stipend given to these players, maybe $200 per month, to all of them, all sports teams. But when a quarterback, running back, or receiver gets a multi-million dollar contract, why doesn’t the offensive lineman who blocks for them get the same? The NIL creates divisiveness, and, in actuality, it is basically the reason why the Southern Methodist University (SMU) college football team got the death penalty.

Yes, I am a college football traditionalist, and there are many of us out there. I just have to ask: when a kid goes to three different colleges in their football career — which should not be a career — which team colors does he wear? College basketball is already suffering with the one-and-done nonsense. That is why March Madness is seeing more upsets of the big guys because they are fielding teams of freshmen and maybe sophomores while smaller schools have kids that stay and are juniors and seniors, having played together all those years.

Yes, college football is losing its character. Then again, perhaps that is just a microcosm of what is happening in our America. The “Me” generation and immediate gratification are poisoning my favorite sport. So, you ask, what is the remedy? Get rid of the transfer portal, stop the opting out idiocy (unless you want to forfeit and pay back your scholarship), and put an end to the NIL insanity.

But, if you want to tell a story about character to college football players, tell them the story of Pat Tillman. Pat Tillman played at Arizona State University, then went to the NFL to play for the Arizona Cardinals. After 9-11 Pat Tillman answered the call of duty to his country and joined the US Army. Pat didn’t join to be a truck driver or do commercial advertisements. Pat Tillman joined the Infantry and then went to Ranger School. Pat Tillman went from being a professional football player to being on the tip of the spear, an elite warrior. Sadly, Pat Tillman lost his life in Afghanistan, due to friendly fire. He exemplifies the impeccable type of character I wish could be restored back to college football.

Actually, I wish it could be restored back to America.

Steadfast and Loyal (something you don’t learn — or earn — that in a transfer portal!)

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