The landscape in college athletics has been altered significantly in recent years.
The widespread impact of COVID-19 certainly has contributed heavily to that.
Seasons were shortened or cancelled because of safety and health concerns.
Some athletes lost their final opportunity to compete in a championship event in 2020.
And hundreds of others were granted extra seasons of eligibility in 2021 because of COVID’s impact.
In the last week, the unthinkable happened.
Two prominent coaches left two of the best football programs in NCAA history – Oklahoma and Notre Dame – after being lured away by huge multimillion dollar contracts.
There were other factors in play as well obviously, but it was still shocking to see Lincoln Riley leave OU for USC and Brian Kelly depart South Bend for LSU.
The timing wasn’t obviously ideal with both teams still in the mix to land a spot in the College Football Playoff.
And those situations clearly could have been handled better. Players had every right to be upset when their coaches bolted for the riches of another program.
In their defense, those coaches really couldn’t afford to wait with recruiting season also in full swing.
The calendar for college football recruiting needs to be changed and adjusted so coaches and schools aren’t put in these awkward scenarios where a coach may leave a school before the season is completed.
Players and fans at OU and ND obviously were disappointed, surprised and upset. And it’s unfortunate to see coaches leaving teams when their season still isn’t complete.
One of the best parts in all of this is that the athletes are no longer locked into a team when their coach leaves.
The transfer portal isn’t popular with everyone, particularly a lot of coaches, but it does give players some flexibility if they want to transfer to another school.
The NIL, where college athletes can now benefit from their name, image and likeness, also is a change that should be applauded.
Major college athletics is big business and coaches shouldn’t be the only ones making money.
It is great to see athletes being able to cash in, to some degree.
Fans don’t sell out 100,000 seat stadiums to watch the coaches. They come to watch the players perform and put on a show.
The college landscape is dramatically different now than it was in the past. But that’s a sign of the times.
It is also refreshing to see some coaches being rewarded for their loyalty.
Kirk Ferentz has been the head coach at the University of Iowa since 1998. He’s the longest tenured coach at a major DI program. But he’s also dealt with plenty of adversity.
His program suffered a significant setback when news broke that highly touted quarterback Deuce Hogan, stuck at No. 3 on the depth chart, was entering the transfer portal.
Ferentz led a gritty Hawkeye team to a 10-win season and a spot in the Big Ten championship game. He’s been loyal to a program he’s guided to its share of success.
And Ferentz has done it with class, dignity and grace. You can’t help but appreciate a coach like that.
Now if we could just figure out a way to fix the college football playoff.
And figure out a way to add more teams.
Maybe someday it will happen.