Keep College Fantasy To Cheerleaders
By Brian Miller
Call me a fool, but I’m sorry, when it comes to fantasy football, keep it in the NFL, and keep your college fantasies focused on the cheerleaders.
The NCAA is currently working toward that very outcome. While I rarely agree with much that NCAA tries to do in collegiate sports, this time, I agree with them completely.
This season, CBSSportsline will offer up the college fantasy leagues with terms like “transfer” instead of trade and “walk-on’s” instead of free agents. Make no mistake though, this is a risky business that can have some very negative results.
Fantasy football and fantasy sports play in general is a multi-million if not teetering on billion dollar a year business. It is not taxed, it is not licensed, it just is. What started out in basements over 10 years ago as a way for a bunch of guys to get together and drink beer has become an annual ritual, a rite of passage so to the “big leagues” so to speak.
League dues range from 10 dollars entry fee to over a 1,000. Every year, hard working adults plop down a portion of their salary on “my money league”. It’s the league they take seriously. The one they plan for, the one that could earn them an extra 500 in January or late December. Sometimes earn them more.
College kids play fantasy football as well. College kids bet on fantasy football the same way adults do. In fact, some college kids pony up what little money they have to play against their fathers. It’s the rite of passage thing.
Fantasy football is the “shh” type of gambling. It’s only once a year, it’s a moderate amount of money, it’s….blah blah blah. It’s gambling. No matter how you look at it. It’s gambling. I will not sit here and condone it. I play it myself, often, I have a “money league”, I am also an adult who has no influence over the outcome of any game. NFL players play fantasy football and I have to believe that their “money” leagues can be somewhat higher and they can influence the outcome of games. For them however it is different…they get paid very well. Losing a few hundred in a fantasy league is not as big as winning a few bragging rights.
College is different though. In college, not all of those athletes will ever sniff the NFL. The majority will leave college after 4 years and start the tedious job of being taken seriously in their chosen profession. Some athletes will hang on to the hopes of Arena football or the likes. They have not monetary gain associated with their play and they have empty wallets in their back pockets. Would it surprise you to hear a college QB say to his receiver, “you keep catching TD’s like that, and I’m going to win our fantasy league”. Would it surprise you that a college QB who just so happens to have his number 1 WR on his fantasy team look a little more often his way…when there is money on the line for his “fantasy team”?
While I am not insinuating by any means that college fantasy football is going to make college athletes throw games for the sake of winning their league, but is it a position that we want to put these kids into to begin with? Is it a position that we want these kids to be in, to sit in their dorms and scroll the pantheon of rankings to see how they improved over last weeks ranks? It’s hard enough in college as it is.
Fantasy football at the college level is something that is already done. It’s nothing new and has been around for years. But much like the early life of Pro fantasy leagues, college FF is done in the dorm rooms, around a café table, it’s done out of the mainstream. Is adding it to a mainstream option really worth the increase in participation from student athletes who may not do it now? Mainstream, right or wrong, makes it appear to be just and o.k. If you see it on ESPN, or on CBSSportsline then suddenly you can justify it to yourself.
The NCAA has strict rules about everything. From where an athlete can work, to how he gets paid and of course where any and all money comes from. There are rules against agents, and rules against everything in between. Right or wrong, they are in place for whatever reason the NCAA feels it needs to be. Some of those rules are broken every year. Reggie Bush’s fiasco comes to mind and he isn’t the only one. Agents contacting players, players receiving “perks”, their families receiving perks. Athletes already struggle to handle the pressures brought to them by the NFL money dangling in front of their noses and we are to believe that they will not “bet” on themselves? They will not draft themselves or their friends? Of course not all, but some will, but why give them the cake and the icing too? Why put it in front of them and temp them to stray off that path?
Here are some of the issues that I can see with college fantasy football.
1: The money issue. To you and me it may not be a big deal to spend a couple hundred or 20 or even 50 bucks on our 12 team fantasy leagues. To a college kid, that is a lot of money. To an athlete who has to abide by NCAA rules, it could be even more. The concept of the on-line fantasy league is giving “free” play options where no money is involved. How many “free” leagues are used as your “money” league. Mine are. So now we give an opportunity where none existed before. A platform that while on the surface doesn’t promote gambling, it is done so with the knowledge that it will be gambled upon.
2: The maturity level. Do you remember what it was like when you were in college? Studying was often the furthest thing from your mind. Parties almost every night somewhere, women, sports, work, everything. Making ends meet is bad enough for the regular college kid, it’s often impossible for the athlete. Gambling is an issue for college students, not all, but some. Will a college athlete be responsible enough to self-govern himself not to draft players in his own division, his own team, himself? Will that college kid have the maturity and the respect of the game not to target that number 2 WR a little bit more because he just so happens to own him in his fantasy league? While this may sound silly or even over thought out, the fact is that we are dealing with thousands of athletes 90 percent of which will never get within sniffing distance of NFL money. Would you have been responsible enough to not look that WR down just one more time?
4: The talent pool. In the NFL, there are 32 teams with 53 players. Of those players, maybe you get 4 or 5 that are worthy of being drafted. Figure 12 teams, 18 rounds. That’s 216 players drafted from 32 teams. In college, that number will swell. There are hundreds of teams in college football but there are not enough teams in each conference to keep it minimized to that division. The point is that there is a tremendous amount of research and talent to truly get a competitive base. College athletes again are more familiar with the teams in their respective divisions rather than those outside that they rarely see. It lends more to the opportunity of those same athletes selecting players that they know, that they face, that they are teammates with. It’s natural. It’s a dangerous game.
The NCAA as I stated is trying to block this attempt. Make no mistake, college fantasy football is alive and well at the collegiate level. It’s bet on and it’s played for free. Players do it, frat brothers do it, hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the professors didn’t do it too. That does not mean that anyone should work toward taking advantage of that by taking it out of the Saturday afternoon “poker” game draft and putting in the mainstream lobby of campuses. As adults we have to take some responsibility for our actions and for the teens and young adults we send to college.
There is too much to lose with our college kids these days. Parents spending tons of money the likes of which most thought they would never see, some that cost more than they will ever earn, now we give those kids something new to play, something new to take their minds off the books they should be reading. This is not about why college kids should study, or about taking away their PS3’s and X’Box Live’s. This is about not putting a format into their hands that could be detrimental to the game. This is about common sense. This is about good judgment, on our part not theirs. We have given them the right to make good decisions when the left for college to begin with.
College fantasy football will not be advertised as a “college students” game, but as an non-collegiate adult game. Another option in the ever increasing popularity of fantasy sports. Yet it is the college athlete and students who tend to lose the most…before they ever plop down one dime to play it.
Keep it on a professional level and let the college kids be college kids.