Maybe you’ve noticed in recent years that the era of elite teams just steamrolling through their entire schedule appear to be over. FCS wins over FBS teams now seem common. Conference Davids frequently fling rocks and topple Conference Goliaths, spoiling seasons along the way. It’s parity, man.
Why is it here now in college football? According to Mike Gundy, you can look to the source of all modern-day ills: cell phones, social media and lives spent drooling at screens.
Oklahoma State heads to Kansas this weekend. In his Monday press conference, Gundy got a question about the fact that Kansas nearly beat TCU a few weeks ago and launched into a theory (at the 16-minute mark) about parity he’s clearly been honing for a while (h/t: Deadspin):
If you’re not able to watch that video, here is Gundy’s take:
I’ve said it every year that spread offenses, quarterbacks’ ability to run, changing in the recruiting pattern, social media, communication in recruiting, has changed this game. Week to week you’re going to see more close games than what people would ever expect. And you’re going to see teams in these Power Five conferences where you can predict a team traditionally going 9-3, 10-2 or so, you’re not going to see as many of those teams. You’re going to see more teams that are going to float in the seven or eight victory category because of the parity that’s out there.
Focus and preparation is different now than it ever has been. The players that we coach come in and they’re not like guys we coached 10 years ago, 15 years ago and 20 years ago because your generation spends all of their time looking at your phones. My generation spent all of our time in the front yard playing games and so they were more ready to go into college athletics. They understood all of the dynamics of it. Compared to young people nowadays, they don’t spend as much time around football. They spend time playing some game on a phone. Because of all that, and the training that takes place, there’s more parity in college football.
I know that seems a little extreme, but I’ve talked to several college coaches in different sports, not just football, and over the last four or five years we’re coaching young men that are talented athletically but don’t have some of the natural football, basketball or baseball skills because they don’t watch it and pay attention to it and they don’t play it in the front yard.
OK. Blaming everything on social media and the way we live today is one of my least favorite things. Not because it’s not valid — the way we live has changed dramatically in almost every way — but because it ignores that every generation has felt this way about something from the generation before it. But that’s a separate discussion.
The question for now is do you buy this as an explanation for college football parity? I have no doubt that cultural shifts have changed the way coaches need to coach in the modern era — I’m working on a project on that topic right now — but is that why Kansas might have a chance this week to win its fifth Big 12 game since 2009?
I’m a lot less certain about that.
SPEAKING OF PARITY
Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal notes that the number of overtime games in 2016 is almost as many as you could’ve expected at the end of the year based on the past 20 seasons and we’re only eight weeks in:
Just barely halfway through the football calendar, 29 games have already gone to overtime. That’s already almost equal to the average for the entire season from 2013-15 of 35 overtime games. From 1996, when college football adopted overtime, to 2015, 4.2% of games have needed extra time. This year it has been 6.3%, the highest rate ever.
Why is this happening? Your guess is as good as ESPN broadcaster Chris Fowler’s — “There is more parity, therefore games will be closer,” he’s quoted as saying in the article — or Mike Gundy’s.
THE GRAB BAG
- ICYMI: Nebraska is dealing with its fair share of injuries at the moment and other notes from Monday’s press conference.
- Paul Finebaum, author of the 1996 classic “I Hate Nebraska,” says the 2016 Huskers are legit for now.
- Nebraska is not returning to the Big 12 because the Big 12 has decided to punt on expansion. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a public Houston backer, isn’t happy about it.
- Wisconsin Coach Paul Chryst makes CBSSports.com’s list of “biggest surprises” of the 2016 season.
- Gregg Doyel writes that Purdue has replaced Duke as the worst Power Five job in football and that the Boilermakers need to hire Les Miles.
TODAY’S SONG OF TODAY
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.