Fans High Expectations Not Unreasonable

The other day Orlando Sentinel Columnist Mike Bianchi wrote at length about how hard fans are to please and how terrible it is that winning is no longer enough. He lamented how fans demands helped drive Steve Spurrier out of college football, which is pure nonsense.

He was the one who called the 1997 season an "okay" year because they didn't win anything (meaning the SEC East or SEC Championship). The coach told his fans that a 10-2 season is unacceptable and nothing worth celebrating. It makes sense that those same fans then set the bar that much higher.

Sports entities have only themselves to blame – if that's the right word – for the way fans react today. There are plenty of reasons that explain exactly why expectations are what they are, not only at the University of Florida but every major program that aspires to win championships. Some reasons are fairly recent and others go back two decades.

Millionaire Coaches ----- I'm sure people had high expectations when Ray Graves was making $50K a year, but when coaches are making as much as they are now it's just natural to expect a higher level of productivity and in college football that means wins. If you don't believe me, see how Yankees fans treat Alex Rodriguez compared to far less productive team mates who just happen to make less money.

Skyrocketing Booster Fees ----- College programs keep charging high and higher fees for the privilege of buying tickets to watch their football and men's basketball teams play. If it costs twice as much to attend a game as it did ten years ago is it unreasonable to expect not only more success, but more entertainment value, too? I don't think so.

Cable Television Explosion ----- When only one or two games were on television prior to the mid-eighties it was hard for a widespread fan base to voice opinions about their teams. After all, they only saw their home games and maybe only listened on the radio. But now they see everyone's games and want the highest level of success that they see for the team they root for.

Talk Radio ----- I created the first daily sports talk show in Gainesville and I can tell you first hand the impact it had on the discourse surrounding the Gators. Florida fans now had a place to vent, and that meant everyone could hear from the most dissatisfied fans. I don't think it raised expectations, but it created a forum to share unhappiness and thus made cranky fans quite influential.

The Internet ----- Well what do you know, I'm part of the problem yet again. The internet provides the opportunity for instant feedback and unedited venom unlike any other medium in history. And for some reason, coaches and administrators react much more strongly to things they can read as opposed to what they hear. Thus fan discontent reaches higher up the food chain than it used to.

Lack of a Playoff ----- This in the biggest reason of all as it relates to the fact that the impact of every loss is absurdly high. If there was a 16-team playoff, a 9-3 SEC team would likely get invited. Instead one loss can kill you and a second blemish almost always does. And since you cannot guarantee a spot in the BCS Title game even if you run the table, style points and margin of victory matter.

I have told fans for years that they are taking away from their own experience if all they are focused on is the destination. It's the journey that really matters most. However, all the above factors and others combine to make college football an "all or nothing" enterprise far too often.

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