Happy Wednesday, SporticoU readers, and thanks for spending part of your day with us.
The college football season has concluded since we last spoke, and I’m sure all of you either watched (though probably not for long …) or heard about Georgia’s 65-7 rout of TCU. It was far less exciting than either of the College Football Playoff semifinal clashes, and the ratings agreed. The game averaged just 17.2 million viewers across ESPN’s family of networks, which makes the Bulldogs second consecutive title win the least-watched championship in the CFP/BCS era, which began in 1998. Not great.
Georgia’s fans weren’t complaining though. In fact, they’re already asking for more. Winning two titles is even better than one, but even better than going back-to-back? A three-peat. (At least their fans aren’t as crazy as Olivia Dunne’s …)
Before everyone’s attention turns to which players are turning pro and entering the NFL draft, I want to take a moment to honor the lives of Devin Willock, a Georgia offensive lineman, and Chandler LeCroy, a recruiting analyst on head coach Kirby Smart’s staff, who were killed in a car crash just hours after the team’s national championship celebration. Willock, who played in all 15 games for the Bulldogs this past season, was just 20 years old and LeCroy was 24. Lives cut short far too soon. Our thoughts are with the Georgia football community.
On the pro football front, the news now is going to be who declares his departure (many players already have) and who decides to stay. The NFL draft isn’t until April, but the NFL combine invites are already going out, which means we’ll have swirling draft rumors galore for the next few months.
On the college side, it’s still transfer portal season, baby. Today marks the final day players can enter the NCAA transfer portal—at least in this year’s winter window, which opened Dec. 5. The windows are new, the NCAA’s way of trying to create some order amid the chaos. Players now have to submit their names by set dates, but they don’t have to officially commit anywhere during these windows. It puts players on the clock, to use sports-speak, at least when it comes to when they can enter the portal. Players who miss the first deadline will have to wait until it opens back up in May.
Thousands of players are expected to enter, as they did last year, but a much smaller number will ultimately find new programs to call home. Transfer decisions could create chaos in those way-too-early college football rankings that are already starting to circulate.
Speaking of drafts: the 2023 NWSL draft took place last weekend in Philadelphia. Alyssa Thompson was selected by Los Angeles’ Angel City as the No. 1 pick—making her the first high school student to be drafted in NWSL history. Technically, Thompson, who verbally agreed to play for Stanford before declaring for the draft, hasn’t graduated yet; she’ll complete her senior year by taking online classes once the NWSL season starts in March. While Thompson won’t be playing in the NCAA, the college game was well represented at the draft with players selected from 34 schools.
Florida State and the University of Virginia both had multiple players taken in the first round—three for the Seminoles and two for my ‘Hoos. Alabama and Duke also had three draftees apiece, though not all in the first round.
The Blue Devil’s top pick actually had two years of eligibility left—departing early in a decision that’s becoming increasingly common among college standouts. Michelle Cooper, who went No. 2 overall, will join the Kansas City Current, whose owners (which now include NFL star Patrick Mahomes) are investing millions in building new facilities for the franchise.
The message? Gone are the days of a guaranteed four years for women’s college soccer players. With higher base salaries thanks to its first-ever CBA, new ownership groups coming in and more player protections being put in place, the NWSL is becoming an increasingly attractive and viable professional option for women’s soccer talent.
Before I let you go, I should note that it’s that time of year where colleges are required to submit their 2021-22 financial reports to the NCAA. These capture revenues and expenses for the fiscal year, giving the most comprehensive view of college athletic department finances out there. We at Sportico are hard at work collecting the new intel, and our database will be updated as the documents come in so be sure to check it out over the next few weeks.