In his introductory press conference as the new head coach at Ole Miss, Lane Kiffin remarked about the SEC being a cut above the rest. Seeing more people on the tarmac for his arrival than there were for the last two CUSA title games hosted in Boca Raton probably confirmed that.
Last year in Murfreesboro there was a sparse crowd for the Blue Raiders and Brent Stockstill’s final game at home and for a chance to win the league. This year the greatest statistical QB in NT history finished off his career in front of about ten people at Apogee.
Attendance and attention is elsewhere on game day all across the nation and CUSA is the hardest hit. FAU are champs of the league again and that this year ended without much fanfare and a reward of a trip back to the same stadium for the Boca Raton bowl is mostly a reality check.
This league was not good this season. While there is talent on these teams that will play in the NFL next season, it was not cohesive enough nor was it overly entertaining that fans wanted to see more. But still, FAU were the best of that bunch. Kiffin himself called the team “underperforming” throughout the year and he was right. This team was not the all-conquering behemoth that the 2017 team was, but they will get a ring and a trophy and brag in the future about it.
Last year when Middle lost in a heartbreaker, Brent Stockstill and his father and coach Rick were watery-eyed at the loss. This stuff is important to the people competing and playing hard even if people are not swayed by that enough to go to the games. Effort and passion do not make anything deserving of attention, however. Respect? Sure. Money? Eh.
That is the harsh reality of it all. There is some value in CUSA football — in the bargain sense. Plenty of fans get to live the fantasy of being a Somebody when moving and shaking in Ruston or Denton the way their peers do in Austin or Tuscaloosa. Plenty of media folks get be the Insider or the Sports Knower when media seats are empty when they would not necessarily be afforded the time or space elsewhere.
Lane Kiffin has done a lot of winning at FAU and it has been good for the program but there will be little real change until there is real investment the likes of which the donor base is incapable of at the moment. The big schools have decades and century-long lore and human investment that props up the programs. This league is filled with programs that would simply like a little shine.
Congratulations again to the FAU program for reaching their immediate potential. Two titles in three years is an accomplishment, a testament to the recruiting, effort, and work put in by everyone involved in the program these last three seasons.
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