Happy Thanksgiving Eve, SporticoU readers. It’s also rivalry weekend eve, for all the college football fans out there, with a handful of Top 25 clashes sprinkled throughout to keep the slate spicy for those watching from home (with leftovers of grandma’s mashed potatoes on hand, I hope).
There’s one game, however, that won’t be played this weekend as planned—the Commonwealth Clash between the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, which was canceled this week after a student shot and killed three UVA football players, and injured two other students, earlier this month. As both a college football fan and proud UVA alum, my heart is absolutely shattered for the families, friends and teammates of Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry, and the entire Charlottesville community.
No words can capture the enormity of this tragedy, which serves as a poignant reminder that sports are about so much more than games or wins and losses. They’re about players who are people, teams that become families and the communities that connect around them. This is especially true in college sports, where so many of the athletes we cheer for from the stands or on our televisions are, really, kids just entering adulthood and starting to figure out who they are and what mark they’re going to leave on the world.
This week, I ask that you join me in a moment of remembrance.
Of the teams who are playing this weekend, there is a lot on the line for a handful at the top. (Looking at you, No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State.) With College Football Playoff expansion still a few years away, there are four coveted CFP semifinal slots, each of which comes with a $6 million payday (for the team’s conference) this year. Fun fact? There’s no second payout for advancing to the championship, just more money to cover participation costs. Appearances in non-playoff bowl games run by the CFP are worth $4 million. With the Fiesta and Peach Bowls serving as this year’s semifinals, the latter payouts apply to those who play in the Orange, Sugar, Cotton or Rose Bowl games.
Now, in the grand scheme of eight- and nine-figure athletic department budgets and multibillion-dollar media rights deals (hello, Big Ten and SEC), is $4 million or $6 million going to make or break anyone’s fiscal year? Definitely not. But a payday is a payday.
Speaking of the Big Ten—there’s some new uncertainty about its future since we last spoke. UCLA’s decision to depart the Pac-12 in 2024 no longer seems like a done deal. The UC Board of Regents met last week to rule on UCLA’s plans, but didn’t hand down a final decision.
To put it bluntly, a lot of this decision is about money. UCLA’s athletics department racked up more than $100 million in debt over the last three fiscal years, and a move to the Big Ten would mean much bigger conference payouts than what it currently gets from the Pac-12. But because USC and UCLA are so far from the rest of the Big Ten schools, the move would also cost the athletic department a lot of money for things such as increased travel expenses and athlete support services.
At the meeting, UCLA chancellor Gene Block reportedly made the case that the increased revenue would outweigh the added costs, and would prevent the athletic department from potentially having to cut sports, but it wasn’t enough to rally an actual vote. The regents will meet again on Dec. 14 to make the final call.
Cool tidbit of the week? Brown University’s Olivia Pichardo made history this week as the first female DI baseball player. Right on.