Jason Fitz

The recent college football season proved the sport is booming. Networks touted higher or even record TV ratings and the transfer portal and growth of NIL deals gave players options and power they haven’t had in the past.

Yet many fans are advancing a different narrative, claiming “College football is dying.” Why is that thought so prevalent, given everything going right in the sport?

Yahoo Sports’ and Fox Sports Radio host Jason Fitz sat down with Jessica Kleinschmidt on The Comeback’s Short and to the Point podcast to explain that perplexing narrative.

Fitz admitted that changes such as granting players name, image and likeness (NIL) rights worry fans.

“There’s a a group of fans and they’re passionate they’re die-hard and they’ve been supporting it since they grew up watching with their grandparents … like it’s ingrained in the culture of who they are,” Fitz said.

“I remember my first interview I ever did trying to get a job at ESPNU … and the question was, should athletes get paid and I came in and said, ‘Hell yes.’ … Here we sit years later and now everybody’s like, ‘Oh the sport is broken because these kids are making millions of dollars.'”

Fitz thinks the naysayers are pessimistic because they feel they’re losing control of the sport.

“College football fans want to control the variables, they want what they’ve seen every week,” Fitz said. “It’s like the crowd that goes to the same restaurant and orders the same meal and they never want to mix it up … they are slow to accept change and this has been the biggest era of change, I think, in any sport we’ve ever seen.”

The transfer portal is another controversial issue for longtime fans.

“When you talk about the transfer portal letting kids go wherever they want to go, you talk about name, image, likeness, and you talk about playoff expansion, the face of college football looks different,” Fitz said.

Fitz said the sport has to evolve to stay relevant. He recalls going to an ESPN seminar years ago, where they talked about the average college football fan being a 54-year-old male.

“That becomes concerning when you are a sport because you have got to find a young audience, you always have to have a young audience,” Fitz said. “I think what college football fans forget is that as passionate as they are, they were dying out … so their sport has to evolve to make sure that — not to hurt anybody’s feelings — they don’t become baseball …”

That might seem like a low blow to MLB and its fans, but Fitz thinks that sport has become very “regionalized,” making it harder to market nationally. College football, on the other hand, has never been bigger on the national scene, and the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff format will only help in that respect.

“College football is the second most popular sport in America,” Fitz said. “You do that by continually asking yourself, ‘How do you grow?’ … You have to have a growth mindset in today’s world and I think college football fans, the old school don’t necessarily love that.”

Fitz pointed to the success of new Colorado head coach Deion Sanders, who helped draw attention to the sport beyond the traditional fan base, as one more sign of college football’s growth.

“The fact that people were flocking to Deion is a reminder there’s a whole audience out there like the NBA audience that just wants their highlights and their superstars and that’s an audience you’ve got to have if you want your sport to grow,” Fitz said.

Short and to the Point with Jessica Kleinschmidt is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.

[Short and to the Point Podcast]

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.