The case for professional football

Caleb Stein, Staff Writer

The National Football League (NFL) is the best football experience, no question. There is absolutely no way that college football can even compare to the NFL. The best competition, the best play, and the most excitement can only be found in the NFL.

When I say the NFL is the best football experience, I mean it’s better both in-person or on TV. Pro sports of any kind are only filled with the best of the best athletes who can and will be able to compete at the highest level consistently. In football, only 1.8 percent of players who played in college play in the NFL, and an even more miniscule .08 percent of high school players go on to play professionally, according to a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) survey. The NFL’s competition level, because of this, is much higher, with each team having multiple extremely talented players each of whom would easily be the best player on a college team. This makes many NFL games very exciting to watch, while with college football you often find yourself waiting on the one game highlighted by College Gameday to start.

Although college football is not lacking in talent, multiple factors, such as recruiting and talent disparity, mean that there are often very predictable outcomes to games and even full seasons. For example, Alabama is seen as the college for football. They are often extremely highly ranked both in the preseason and by the end of the season. Since Nick Saban, their current coach, joined the program, Alabama has gone 119-19, played in 10 bowl games, won four conference championships, and won four national championships, according to Sports Reference. These accolades make Alabama even more of a hotspot for highly touted recruits as the seasons go on, which means only a handful of teams each year are able to realistically challenge Alabama for the throne.

In the NFL, this is much less of a reality. There are teams, such as the New England Patriots, who have enjoyed prolonged success, but they do not consistently dominate and win every single year. The NFL has not had a back-to-back Super Bowl champion since the Patriots in 2005, while in college football Alabama was the last back-to-back national champion as recently as 2012, which also gave Alabama their third national championship in four years. Since 2000, both the NFL and college football have seen 11 different teams win championships; however, this is 34 percent of all teams in the NFL and only 9 percent of teams in college football when only including Division I schools. This means the NFL enjoys a much more balanced set of teams, and a good chunk of these teams are given a realistic possibility to compete for the championship. Contrast this with college football, where very few teams can realistically compete, and the NFL makes regular season games mean much more and more exciting to watch.

According to ESPN, an average regular season game in 2016 in the NFL pulled in an average viewership of 16.8 million people, while in college football, on ABC’s Saturday Night Football in the same season, there was an average viewership of just above six million people. When you add in the 1.3 million average viewership from FOX Sports broadcasts of college football during the 2016 season, there will still be more than double the average viewers for the NFL than college football.

Of course, we can’t forget about the most important games of the season: the championships. Obviously, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest TV draws in the United States. According to SI, on average a 30 second ad cost somewhere between $5-5.5 million. Even so, many companies are more than willing to cough up that money to pay for it, and for good reason. The 2017 Super Bowl pulled in an average viewership of over 113.1 million people, which made it one of the top five most-watched Super Bowls of all time. Ever since the Harris Poll declared football the most popular sport in the U.S. in 1985, the Super Bowl has not fallen below 73 million average viewers with max numbers reaching as many as over 114 million average viewers. The Super Bowl also has not received average viewership numbers below 90 million since 2005.

In college football, these numbers are much lower. The 2016 college football national championship only pulled in an average viewership of just over 26 million, which was actually 700,000 less viewers than the national championship the year before. Even though the 2016 national championship was in the top 25 percent for most-viewed national championships of all time, it still pulled in barely 23 percent of the average viewers of the Super Bowl from the same year.

The only real argument for why college football could even be close to as good as the NFL would be the “experience.” When I say experience, I’m referring to college students. While it may be the best for them, it is not for the rest of us. If you’re not a college student, going live to a college football game is basically just a less-talented version of an NFL game. This isn’t even taking into account the students who never attend those games, don’t attend college at all, or attend a college that doesn’t have a football program.

Let me spell all this out for you: the NFL is the more exciting, more popular, more competitive experience. If you had to choose one game for the rest of your money, and you want that game to be the best game you have ever or will ever experience, your best bet is an NFL game. There is simply no debate.