It’s not official, but you heard it here, and I’m sticking to it.

It appears Travis Hill will be the head coach at Muskogee in a few days. Within 24 hours, Rafe Watkins will have made the drive down Highway 64 to take over at Warner.

More on both soon, when the boards approve what the people hired to do the hiring get the clearance to say, even while the coaching community knows, and the Twitterverse speculates on the basis of those who know.

Nothing’s certain until it’s certain, or official. 

Seems the simple thing would be a zoom meeting to clear the hire and a soon-after announcement (not in this case, but there have been in my 20 years here, coaches on the job even while the “official board approval” has not come, leaving us, I suppose, to pretend nothing is going on). 

Moving on in a week of change:

Say what you want about Florida coach Dan Mullen’s “scout team” comments referring to his players thrust into starting roles due to opt-outs before the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma. The hit the Gators took to a position group where three receivers opted out, two of those announced just 48 hours before the game, is significant, and if you would predict a consequence to such loss, it would likely be felt early in the game — and it was. Kyle Trask was picked three times and before the JerryTron got warmed up, OU was up 17-0.

Yes the Sooners had their share of quitters too, but Florida’s inexperienced pass-catchers more than made up for missing cornerback Tre Brown. That’s not to say OU wouldn’t have ultimately won, it did so convincingly, but to say it didn’t impact things is silly.

Lincoln Riley, as he did afterward, can say the majority of players think these games are still important and so stick around for it. But the ultimate judge of the impact of what has become an increased phenomenon in the game will be the TV viewers and ESPN, in a pandemic season the exclusive money pipeline to the cash-strapped college sports scene.

OSU-Miami in the Cheez-It Bowl was the most-watched bowl to that point but the least-watched edition of that game since 2005. Most other bowls were down from previous seasons, and that should be signficant because less people got to attend those games due to pandemic restrictions. Then, Friday’s semifinal games averaged a decline of four percent from last year’s semifinal games.

Audience count factors will certainly be noticed by ESPN, and upcoming TV contracts will react accordingly. With challenges regarding name, image and likeness earning potential on the scene for players now, it potentially compounds the problem for university budgets.

Certainly any deal where college athletes get paid for performing should come with the stipulation that they honor a full season’s schedule. NFL aspirations is what drives opt-outs, and the NFL is certainly about business, but if you’re making playing at the college level about compensation, you’re also talking business.

Playoffs are also about business and maybe a vastly expanded playoff, even 16 teams instead of eight, could entice commitment for as long as there’s something on the line in a postseason game. 

It used to be about pride, team and commitment to a goal. Now, it’s about me-first, and maybe if you consider how college coaches have emphasized that to incoming recruits only to bail on them for personal gain, the cat was already out of the bag.

A few years ago, a college job seemed to have more security for coaches. Now, that gap is blurred not only by opt-outs, but the transfer portal.

Now, it’s all a mess of unpredictability going forward.

But one thing is for sure, follow the money.  And for the most part, ESPN is the bank. 

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