Widgets Magazine

Sawhney: Could an NFL lockout be a good thing?

With the NFL’s owners and Players Association locked in a heated battle over a new collective bargaining agreement, it’s becoming more likely every day that the league is headed for a lockout. If a new agreement isn’t struck by March 3, the owners will lock out the players; if a resolution isn’t reached by September, the NFL could cancel the entire season.

There’s only one position that I really identify with, which is the players’ refusal to acquiesce to an 18-game season. Such a long campaign would increase injury risk tremendously and dilute the value of each regular-season game.

Although I like the NFL, I have to concede that I’m really rooting for neither side to prevail, but rather to see the lockout happen. An NFL lockout would be an untold boon for college football, dramatically increasing TV viewership as disaffected fans would flock from the pros to the NCAA.

Next season would be a great one for the nation’s collective sporting conscious to focus firmly on college football. The results of conference realignment—and all the juicy storylines that fall from it—will be on full display, as the new Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12 all commence play. As the Ohio State Tattoo Five and the Cam Newton sagas continue to unfold, we could see even more pressure for the sport to reform itself and curb the unsavory practices that “football-factory” programs regularly engage in.

More viewership would be highly beneficial to Stanford as well. Fans of both NFL teams in the Bay Area would turn to Stanford and Cal for their football, and we might actually get a full stadium pretty regularly when disaffected 49ers fans discover the (relatively) low ticket prices and high-quality football just down the road. Stanford’s football team will likely enter next season with a top-10 ranking and its most hype in recent memory, so the timing of the NFL lockout would be fortuitous indeed.

An NFL-less season could also bring in more money for Stanford and the Pac-12 in the long term. The conference is due to renegotiate its media deal soon and would be in a much stronger bargaining position if it had viewership numbers swelled by exiled NFL fans. Stanford is already set to see its slice of revenue from the conference jump dramatically, but an added dollop of cash never hurts.

College teams could also schedule games for Sunday, giving us a full weekend of college football as opposed to just a single Saturday as we have now. College programs aren’t technically prevented from scheduling games on Sunday—they only refrain from doing so because they don’t want to compete against the NFL for viewership.

By contrast, the NFL is barred by its antitrust exemption from staging Saturday games during the college regular season. If college football is able to build a Sunday audience, big programs could compete regularly and successfully against the NFL for years to come.

However, the biggest benefit from a college football-focused fall wouldn’t be monetary—it would be the increased pressure for a playoff. Almost everyone is dissatisfied with the BCS, but part of the reason that it hasn’t been blown up yet is that, after the bowls are over, we can all sit back on our couches and prepare to watch a few weeks of NFL playoff action. Without the Super Bowl, the bowl games would feel empty, and pressure would intensify for college football to crown its champion via an eight- or 16-team playoff.

After all, one only has to look at this season to see why a playoff is better than the BCS system. The Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers, got into the playoffs with a six seed; if we had a BCS-type system in the NFL, there’s no way the Pack gets voted into the Super Bowl!

Kabir Sawhney is rooting for a lockout. He clearly fell and hit his head this weekend. Wish him a speedy recovery at ksawhney@stanford.edu

About Kabir Sawhney

Kabir Sawhney is currently a desk editor for the News section. He served as the Managing Editor of Sports last volume.