For years now, it has dominated television viewing habits on Saturday. Every week, dozens of games are broadcasted on national television. When the leaves begin to change and the air takes on a chill, it can only mean college football for millions of fans. Unfortunately, these rising stakes have come with greater risks.
The ESPNization of college sports has turned a simple game into a multi-million dollar machine. Revenue for the big teams can be enormous, which presents a mixed blessing. Sports programs help to bring money and notoriety to a school. However, much of this money and power can fall into the hands of boosters, and suddenly the game becomes less about fun and more about winning at all costs.
It can be easy to forget that, while the athletes taking the field are skilled and powerful, they are still just kids. Some are younger than 20 and their bodies are still developing. Despite the risks, these college players are sent out week after week, receiving beatings that most people will never endure.
The results have becoming increasingly troubling. Even with penalties designed to protect quarterbacks and wide receivers, marquee players like Tim Tebow and Walter Thurmond are still going down with seriously injuries.
Of course, it is ridiculous to expect a sport to be injury-free, but the mentality of college football is what makes the situation dangerous. Players are taught to fight through the pain. The pressures of the media and NFL aspirations could make it tough for a player to confess an injury.
Even the weight room is not totally safe, as evidenced by the shocking injury suffered by Stafon Johnson. As stated by Arizona coach Mike Stoops, “Kids are pushing themselves to the limit in the weight room”, increasing the chance of serious injury.
The most disturbing aspect of this is the push to return players to the field. Tebow suffered the first concussion of his career, and already the focus is on when he will return. College teams do boast testing and safety measures, but an ensuing concussion could be life-threatening.
College football is fun, exciting and a great way to pass a Saturday afternoon. The games are played by unpaid students, though, and concerns of safety should always come before those of success.