The scale of college football in the US is difficult to fathom in Australia, so understanding the importance of the sports band competition the Bayou Classic needs some context. Jeremy Cassar explores just how big college football has become.
Jeremy Cassar

21 Dec 2016 - 11:50 AM  UPDATED 21 Dec 2016 - 11:50 AM

Half of Australia can relate to the North American rabid obsession with a vast cross-section of sports, but the fact that college gridiron—seen as one rung beneath professional American football, is larger in scale and spectacle than any of our significant pro-codes—should put our industry in perspective.

This is not the National Football league, this is college, and as we all know from Friday Night Lights, even investment in US High School football rival some of our grandest sporting events.

Vice World of Sports explores college football’s significance in Louisiana, where thousands upon thousands mark the Bayou Classic, an annual November rivalry between the two same Colleges—Grambling State University Tigers and the Southern University Jaguars— not only as must-see sport, but as an honourable tradition that broadens the states identity.

But as Vice focuses travels deeper into the Bayou Classic and focuses on Louisiana’s nationally revered half-time band, here’s a bit of context as to why college football is such a significant sporting code in the United States of America.


You’d have to be living under the bleachers with plugs in your ears not to have heard of the full academic scholarships awarded to prodigious sporting players —most prominently with gridiron. Players and their family’s are followed by pushy recruits and coaches; offers and perks are promised; and of course, there will be no more football unless the future star maintains his studies.

Some college athletic departments have more money than NFL teams

In 2014, football-obsessed schools such as Texas, Alabama, Michigan, Fla, Ga, Auburn, Notre Dame & LSU all garner more greenbacks than the average NFL team salary, which is a reflection of the gargantuan popularity behind the semi-semi-pro competition.

CLC estimated total retail sales in 2003: NFL $1.3B, NCAA $2.35B, NBA $750M.

College football is only growing, but at what expense?

Sports critic Tom Farrey revealed that College football coach salaries gone up 59% since 2007 vs 25% in NFL, while spending has spiked. Though revered college football reporter for CBS Sports claims “What looks like schools aren't making money on sports is actually schools spending $$ because there’s nothing else to do with it.”

Cashed-up colleges with record-breaking wins are to be expected

Princeton leads the frey with 28 final wins, followed by that university of which some of you may have heard ­— Yale, with 27. Around the middle with 11 wins each is Nebraska and Pitsburgh, and rounding out the list is everything from BYU to UCLA to Wisconsin, and fourteen other teams, who have won a single championship.

Audience turn-outs put The Easter Show, and maybe even Hillsong, to shame

Officially, since officially taking statistics from 1948, the Sept. 7, 2013 meeting between Michigan and Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor holds the record for largest crowd at 115,109.

Whatever you think a team is worth, quadruple that number

10. University of Oklahoma Sooners - $87 million

9. Auburn University Tigers - $88 million

8. University of Arkansas Razorbacks - $89 million

7. University of Georgia Bulldogs - $90 million

6. University of Alabama Crimson Tide - $93 million

5. University of Michigan Wolverines - $94 million

4. Louisiana State University – $96 million

3. Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions - $100 million

2. University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish – $112 million

1. University of Texas Longhorn – $129 million

Coaches are expensive

10.James Franklin, Penn State – $4.5 million

9. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss – $4.704 million

8. Guz Malzahn, Auburn – $4.73 million

7. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M  - $5 million

6. Charlie Strong, Taxas – $5.2 million

5. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State – $5.25 million

4. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma - $5.55 million

3. Urban Meyer, Ohio State - $6.095 million

2 Nick Saban, Alabama  - $6.45 million

1. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan – $9.004 million

NCAA Football players receive little to no salary

That is, if you don’t count the almost 200,000 in free or compensated education received by a prodigious linebacker.

We realise these guys are in college, but the commitment and all consuming nature of the code, coupled with the fact it brings over $1 billion dollars a year in revenue, suggests it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to throw some cash the players way – something still argued over today.

Watch Vice World of Sports for an enlightening story about the most boisterous half-time band during one of the nations most iconic games – the Louisiana Bayou Classic – now streaming on SBS On Demand. The show airs on SBS VICELAND on Friday nights at 10:15pm.


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