Written By William Bixby
1. There are fewer games – Fewer games means fans get a better product on the floor or field. Because there are less games at the university level, college kids get more practices, better game planning, and more energy for games. Athletes are better prepared for their opponents, so there are also better chances for big upsets regardless of the overall talent of the team. Having less games produces a better product for the NCAA.
2. Every game counts – Having fewer games also has another unexpected advantage. It makes every game relevant. A 12 game season in college football promises that the team that challenges for the national championship knows how to win football games. The 16 game professional version allows key players to become injured and causes fatigue by the end of the season. An 82 game NBA season is grueling for even the best athletes. Rookies and second year players hit the wall at mid-season. The 30 game season for college basketball builds to climax steadily from non-conference games, through conference game rivalries, to the NCAA tournament. Teams have to fit a specific formula just for consideration: Either win your conference tournament or have 20 wins and key wins against ranked opponents. That means that every game is important.
3. Alcohol + young people = good times – College is one of the only places where you have fans like the Cameron Crazies, the Seminole chant, and shirtless yokels yelling non-stop for hours on end. Fans of professional sports are older, more established and less likely to act crazy for their team (except for Raider fans).
4. Bands – College is the last place where sports teams have their own team bands equipped with their school’s fight song. There is nothing like watching your team score and hearing your school’s fight song. Graduates return for games and sing them after wins. Some fight songs are built into our sports culture like the fight songs of Notre Dame, Ohio State, USC, and Texas.
5. Traveling fans – College is the only time in life when people have enough time and resources to follow their favorite sports team. If the game is big enough, then college kids pile into cars and take a road trip to it. There are some rivalries where there are an equal amount of fans for both teams regardless of home court advantage.
6. Dick Vitale – Dick Vitale is a sports treasure. His name is synonymous with college basketball, and he has developed and trademarked his own language in describing the sport. Basketball fans know what a diaper dandy is, what the all-Windex team means, and who the best players in the country are because of him.
7. Coaching matters – There is no other place where coaching matters more than in college. You can see the imprint of coaching style on games. Certain coaches play defensive ball. Bo Ryan of Wisconsin tries to grind games out with a stout zone. John Calipari of Kentucky and Jim Boheim of Syracuse use the same 2-3 zone to create turnovers and push tempo.
8. Number 1 plays Number 2 – The best two teams in the nation face each other in college football every year. And though people question the BCS system, the flaws in it assure that the national champion faces a team of its caliber each year. In the NFL, teams face rivals from their division in the postseason, however the best teams seldom face each other in the championship game. The best games in the playoffs are usually in the Wild Card rounds, because good teams seldom enter the playoffs with the same record. College football allows for games like the 2006 USC-Texas Rose Bowl game where the consensus number one team and the consensus number team for the entire season faced each other in the last game of the year.
9. The Tournament – There is no competition in the land that is better than the March Madness. 65 teams enter the same tournament and only one leaves a champion. The NCAA tournament combines all the great story lines of the cinema and matches them with all the rivalries in basketball. David meets Goliath in the tourney. Regional and conference rivalries meet in latter rounds, and teams from the same state who never play during the regular season face each other on neutral courts. Guessing who will win any game is impossible because almost every team that enters the tournament has won 20+ game in this season, won a conference tournament to get an at large berth, or have been ranked highly for most of the college basketball season. Every team that enters the tournament is loaded with talent or is extremely disciplined, and the best teams are both.
10. The sports are pure – Yes, there are players that only go to college to get to the pros, but the majority of players are there because they love the game. Most of the players are excited to play sports at one of the biggest stages. The players have not started selfishly looking at stats to bolster their next paycheck, because they are playing to prove themselves. College sports show the joy of victory and the agony of defeat more clearly than other sport, and that is why college sports trump professional athletics every time.