While there is no one year that you can point to and say that this is the year everything changed for college football and recruiting I tend to look at 1982 as the beginning of the modern era of college football and recruiting. 1982 was the 50th anniversary of the SEC and it represents some major changes in the college football landscape. It is not until the 60’s that college football becomes more than just a novel sport among college athletics and it is not until 1973 that we see the NCAA divide the schools into Division I, Division II, & Division III schools. I think people today would be shocked at what recruiting looked like in the 60’s & 70’s. What was going on in Texas in the 70’s & early 80’s is pretty well documented. The 80’s saw the NCAA take steps to stop the abuses and close the loop holes that where being exploited by the programs and the coaches. College football was becoming big business and where there is big business there is big money. The 80’s saw the beginning of the modern era of NCAA regulation.
1980 is also a rough point in time where cable TV and sports broadcasting starts to have an impact on the world of athletics (ESPN was founded in 1979). A football player no longer has to enroll in a program at a major media market to get the TV exposure. Without ESPN and cable/satellite TV would it be possible for a program like Boise State to grow and recruit? Would people even know who Boise State is? The amount of media coverage is insane and the demand from consumers for more information is simply amazing. The internet has multiplied the media’s reach by a power of 10, but it started in the early 1980’s with the spread of modern cable TV.
Sports marketing also went through a transformation throughout the 80’s. Starting with Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson, Nike became an unprecedented force in sports advertising. Would Oregon have become a national contender without the corporate support of Nike?
Auburn won a national title on 1957, and while I don’t want to take anything away from the coaches and player of that era, is it relevant? The college football landscape looks nothing like what it did. Most seasons you played 8-10 games and most of the players played on both offense and defense. Looking at the total number of all time national championship awards you will find Princeton at 28 and Yale at 27. Does it really matter? Is it relevant to the modern era of college football? At what point did we enter the modern era of college football?