Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014 isn’t going to be as great for media members as pretty much any Super Bowl in the past. It’s likely to be cold, windy and maybe even snowy for kickoff of the NFL title matchup in the New York area – the first time for a legitimate shot at “football weather” for football’s biggest game. So now the NCAA has to wake up and realize conference expansion isn’t the biggest issue with college football.
By Kevin Hunt
From the beginning of the season until about the beginning of November, every football game across the U.S. brings the same type of weather. But in the 11th month for many places in this country, tailgaters can’t forget their coats, chest painters start to seem insane and football players have to decide whether they’ll put on sleeves to protect against the cold.
This can be a very disconcerting fact for a large number of college football players who come from Southern California, Texas and Florida who probably have never seen leaves change color, let alone faced lake effect wind chills or any number of feet of snow. But the way much of college football works right now, going out of the comfort zone isn’t an issue with anyone because it’s never encountered.
The Notre Dame-USC rivalry is just one example – and one that’s had me frustrated for years. The Irish play against the Trojans in South Bend, Ind., in odd-numbered years and in Southern Cal in even-numbered years. This should, however, be considered more of a home-and-“home” for Notre Dame because games played in South Bend are always scheduled at some point before November, while games in SoCal are scheduled as the last game of the year (you know, a typical spot in the schedule for a rivalry game).
If you haven’t ventured through the Midwest it the November-through-February period, let me enlighten you – probably windy, probably cold, possibly snowing or, if you’re especially lucky to be around, maybe even sleeting. In other words, it’s no California, Texas or Florida.
But that’s just the point. Limiting the term “home field advantage” to mean an overwhelming difference in the number of fans isn’t enough. It should mean overwhelming. Period. It should say to the opponent, “You’re not playing on your field. You’re playing on OUR field. This will not be a game like all the others you’ve played or will play.”
Creating schedules that include games that aren’t in ideal conditions can only help players looking to jump into the NFL, where the conditions can be erratic – case in point, this four-week stretch of the upcoming Cleveland Browns schedule: at Jacksonville in late November, return home to northeast Ohio for the last Sunday in November, play in Miami the following week, then go to Buffalo in mid-December. There’s no real preparing for one climate – the players have to be ready for anything every week.
College football can at least start by scheduling more bowl games in cold-weather climates. There are 34 bowl games right now and only seven have a chance of getting hit with “football weather.” One addition to the schedule is the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium on December 30 – a step in the right direction (for everything but the bowl’s name). Now a few more are needed to get the college game where it belongs.