A Sign of the Times: Sports Illustrated features spring football on this week’s cover

For years now, we’ve heard that college football is the “second most popular sport in America.” But while that statement has served as a cute little badge of honor for those of us who love college football, there was no way to truly quantify that statement.

That is, until now.

That’s because on mid-Tuesday morning Sports Illustrated released a preview of this week’s issue, and much to the surprise of, well, everyone, the lead story (and corresponding picture) has to do with college football. The cover features a picture of Braxton Miller (or in some parts of the country Jadeveon Clowney) with a headline and subtext that are sure to cause everyone who isn’t a college football to cringe.

The cover reads:

March Madness: Let It Rip!!

[Sorry, Hoops, Two More Weeks To Wait]

On the surface, that’s a cheap- and undeniable- low blow to the sport of college basketball, one which seemingly gets less and less relevant by the year. Understand that’s not a knock on college basketball per se (I myself am a HUGE college basketball fan), but is a sad of where that particular sport is. With players leaving early every year it leaves less continuity in the sport than ever before, something that has seemingly driven away casual fans (and not those of a specific school) in droves. The fact that scoring is at historic lows in the 2013 season certainly isn’t helping either.

At the same time this isn’t really a “What’s better: College Football or College Hoops” debate, but instead a statement to the overall health of college football.

Yes, the sport has now eclipsed college basketball on the amateur level, but doesn’t it also speak volumes that Sports Illustrated feature a cover story on spring football at a time when the NBA regular season is going on, the NFL combine is underway and Major League Baseball teams are now in spring training? Doesn’t it tell you everything you need to know that the Ohio native on the cover of Sports Illustrated in late-February is Braxton Miller and not LeBron James?

Having spring football on the Sports Illustrated cover also proves something beyond a reasonable doubt that college football fans have long since known: College football is no longer a season sport but instead a 365 day a year passion.

After all, it was seemingly just a few short years ago when the “season” ended at the last whistle of the National Championship Game. Only now we live in a world where ESPNU dedicates 10 hours of coverage to National Signing Day, where spring practice scrimmages are broadcast nationally and where we spend more time in August talking about position battles on college campuses than the playoff push in Major League Baseball.

And with new TV contracts buoying most schools (well except the Big East… again, I’m a UConn alum) and a new playoff finally pushing the sport into the 21st century, it seems like college football will only continue to gain in popularity.  

Whether fans of college hoops, Major League Baseball or other sports want to admit it or not, the facts are undeniable: College football is America’s second most popular sport.

And that ain’t changing any time soon.

For all his opinion, insight and analysis, please follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.

Follow Crystal Ball Run on Twitter @Crystal Ball Run.


About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.