College football deja-vu

By Lucas Deal

The 2007 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship is tonight in Atlanta where the SEC Champions and defending National Champion Florida Gators will meet the Big Ten Champion Ohio State Buckeyes … again.

This is not only the second time the two teams have met on the hardwood this year – tonight’s game will also be a rematch of the 2007 BCS National Championship football game.

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Thus, tonight’s game will be the second time in less than three months the Gators and Buckeyes will fight for one of America’s most prestigious trophies. The Gators are already on a two-game winning streak in National Championship appearances and currently hold the trophies in both sports.

A Gators win would cement Florida’s rise to the very top of college athletics; a Buckeyes upset would somewhat avenge their embarrassing loss to Florida in the BCS title game and at least attempt to push The Ohio State University into the Gators’ perch of college athletic greatness.

Either way, it’s still the same two damn teams … and I just can’t get over that.

I just can’t fathom how, in an organization as ever-evolving as the NCAA, the same two universities can so easily establish themselves as the top programs of athletic excellence.

Most universities simply struggle to be average in most sports and will occasionally have a team or coach that pushes them to extraordinary levels. These moments are often met with great joy – but also great pressure. Once success is tasted, the bitterness of mediocrity is no longer good enough.

Occasionally a program is able to use these miraculous seasons as springboards to bigger and better things, but in most cases they simply become nostalgic memories in an otherwise ordinary existence.

And it’s not that these programs want to fail, it’s just that being successful on such a large stage is extremely hard to do. From coaching and recruiting to facilities and player development, the aspects in creating a dominant Division I athletic team are far reaching.

University budget constraints and financial limitations are also huge factors that can make or break a team’s ability to compete on the grandest of stages.

For example, a university such as Creighton in Omaha, Neb., can invest every cent of its sports budget into funding the Bluejays’ NCAA Tournament-quality basketball team. The school can build a new stadium, update its facilities and hire a new coach, but if it doesn’t have enough money left over to compete with the Gators and Buckeyes of the world it will continue to have second-tier success.

Money drives everything, and in this changing NCAA environment it is becoming increasingly harder for schools like Creighton, and even Illinois, to compete with the 800-pound gorillas of college sports like Ohio State, Florida, USC and Texas. Nothing the Illini do, regardless of their positive effects, can bring the Illini to the top of the financial mountain.

When selling a university, tradition and coaching only go so far. It takes real dollars to build an empire.

Unfortunately for most college sports fans, there aren’t enough empires out there to make the game interesting. Without a change, major college athletics will become a “Red Sox vs. Yankees vs. the world” business.

Sure, the Sox and Yanks only make up a small amount of the Major Leagues, but their influence is dominating.

They are consistently the favorites and will forever be known as such.

Unless something happens soon, college athletics appear to be doomed to the same fate. An empire will rule (Florida, Ohio State, USC, Texas) while everyone else fights for second place.

The greatest spectacle in sports is dying. So much for parity.

Lucas Deal is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]