When the college football playoff bracket came out Sunday, madness ensued as the Cincinnati Bearcats, a non-power team, made the playoffs after Georgia’s loss to Alabama. Arguably, a crazier story brewed as many NCAA coaches left shortly after the regular season. A common trend seems to be that if a coach’s team does not make it to the playoffs, they quit the day after their season ends. With Oklahoma being ranked tenth and Oklahoma State ranked seventh, the winner was set to play in the Big 12 conference championship. The winner could play in the playoffs if Alabama lost or if any other underdogs came out on top. Knowing this, it raised the stakes for the teams involved in the face-off. With an amazing 56-yard run from Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams (who started the year as the backup), the run got the Sooners to eight seconds left and a fourth and 10 on the 24-yard line. Then, Williams got sacked. While a devastating loss, the real madness started in the morning, with head coach Lincoln Riley announcing he was leaving. He has been the head coach for the Sooners since 2017, after Bob Stoops retired. His offense has been amazing, demonstrated by the fact that from 2017 to 2018 he had two quarterbacks who won the Heisman and got drafted as the first pick in the NFL draft. Then, Jalen Hurts, who is also a quarterback, got drafted in the first round after also coming through Oklahoma’s program. During Riley’s four years, he has won the Big 12 championship one and made the playoffs the three other years. Though, after Riley’s Sooners did not get into the Big 12 championship, Riley said he got a call on Saturday night from University of Southern California (USC). They offered him a job as the new head coach for the Spartans. The next morning, Riley took the gig, but the move left many with a question: why would Riley leave if there is still football to be played?
Oklahoma will still play in a bowl with a 10-2 record, but put simply, Riley wanted more money. According to a tweet from Robert Hefner V., Riley gets $110 million and additionally, USC has agreed to buy both Riley’s homes at $500,000 over market value, and a 6$ million home for him in USC. The most unique aspect includes 24/7 private plane access.
Riley was not the only coach to abandon his team on that very day, interestingly. Brian Kelly of Notre Dame called for a 7 a.m. meeting with his players to tell them the news that he would be leaving South Bend. Kelly holds the most wins in Irish history, but he left for the Louisiana State University (LSU) position after Ed Organ was disgracefully turned out earlier this year. Kelly is supposed to get a $100 million contract over 10 years. Kelly was forced to send his team a group text message after the move was released by various other news outlets. The 7 a.m. meeting, he claimed, was to give them the respect they deserved in owning his position face to face with his team.
As a coach, it is expected that one is supposed to be a leader, to be e with the team through good or bad and set a good example to the players. A lot of coaches like to make their team a family, and trust is an important element. By facilitating a familial environment and encouraging honesty among teammates, coaches expect teams will play for each other, reducing mistakes on the football field and reducing tension off the field. With coaches leaving before the end of the season and demonstrating a lack of accountability in terms of media discretion, this shows that coaches are not all about the family; they care more about money and the 24/7 private plane access.
There are also problems outside of the coaches in the colleges and athletic departments. LSU made a shocking decision to part with Coach O after a 6-6 season, but more shockingly, only two years after a national championship. It has been argued that LSU’s talent (or lack thereof) is not because Coach O, but because all of their offensive starters went to the NFL. Why did LSU fire their coach after two bad seasons? Boosters expect the teams to go to the conference championship. College football is known as the Front Porch, where people see the college and look at their football record and not academics. This can affect the students attending the school and affects the profit a school can bring in. Unfortunately, for someone like Coach O, they become a disposable utility, as the boosters expect better results.
All of this shows that the NCAA is flawed. As the organization has finally ruled college athletics can make money, it has invited a plethora of problems. This helps add to the political problems of college football. Because they have a good coach and a good practice facility and they perform well every year, those are the teams that continue to see an increase of funding and the best recruits. The NFL attempts to force equality by creating a draft plan that will put some of the best draft picks on the league’s worst teams. But college football does not have the same ability. That’s why Nick Saban and Alabama are so good. That’s why coaches get paid so much: because colleges know when they get Lincoln Riley there, they are also getting an amazing quarterback. That’s why right after Riley signed, he got the second-best quarterback in the country to sign with USC. This shows there needs to be some change in how college football works. Part of why the best teams are the best is because they have the money to be the best. They draw in the best recruits, the best coaches, the best trainers with the best facilities, the best benefits, the best of whatever they have to offer. It sends a general message that with money comes wins. And this message negates what sport is all about. At least, that is what many believe. A win comes through hard work, not easy money.