Former Southeast Conference Commissioner Roy Kramer, whom Michiganders like to claim as our own for his East Lansing High School and Central Michigan University coaching roots, seized the opportunity of an acceptance speech for an award he received recently from the Tennessee Chapter of the National Football Foundation, College Football Hall of Fame and Knoxville Quarterback Club to deliver a sobering message regarding the game he loves so much – football.
His concerns were for the survival of football on college campuses “where their games will never be on television and will be played in front of less than 10,000 fans.” Which is the situation for 90 percent of the nation’s college football programs.
He also said, “I’m even more concerned about games on Friday night.” Mr. Kramer has been a long-time opponent of Friday night telecasts of college football games because they do poorly both at the gate and in television ratings, and they conflict with the tradition of approximately 6,000 high school football games played locally on Friday nights.
We Michiganders are sometimes criticized for our “conservative” views about the boundaries of a sensible scope for educational athletics. We come by this naturally, on the shoulders of people like Roy Kramer who, even after years in the glitz and glamour of elite college football, maintains his concern for more modest college programs as well as high school football.
It is this base of the game, not the few at the pinnacle, that is the future of a game under siege in dozens of courthouses and state houses across the U.S. – and worse, a game being questioned in many thousands of homes where football was once the game of choice.