College football fans are living through some interesting times. Nothing seems certain. Nothing seems sacred.
Conference realignment, playoff expansion, NIL deals, and television money dominate nearly every conversation about the sport, regardless of the medium. It can be scary. It can be confusing. It can be sad.
Through the years, we've seen these moves ruin rivalries and cheapen bowl games. As a nation that invests our very souls into the game, every change can feel like a small piece of us is dying.
I talk to people of all ages, from all corners of the country. The sentiment is the same: we're going to lose college football one day.
I wholeheartedly disagree.
College football is not about television deals or the money that comes with them. It's not about the College Football Playoff, the number of teams included, or the one team that gets to keep the national championship trophy.
College football is about the game-day experience. It's about the sights, sounds, and smells. It's about those moments on hot September afternoons or cold November nights when small college towns in the middle of nowhere feel like the center of the universe.
College football is about us.
Like many of you, I've been to countless college football games. I remember big plays, crowd reactions, tailgates, taking in games at bars, the bands, and the game-day traditions.
Rarely, if ever, have I sat in a stadium during a game and cared about the amount of TV revenue the two teams made, the amount of money a college athlete was or was not paid, or what conference the teams played in.
I only cared about what was in front of me: the game and the pageantry that was the backdrop for it.
Conference realignment, television money, NIL deals, and playoff expansion change some things — nobody is arguing that.
But those changes don't impact Howard's Rock or Toomer's Corner. You won't feel them when you're tailgating at "The Grove" or "The Mo." You won't notice them during "Enter Sandman" or "Jump Around."
If any of that crosses your mind while you're taking a selfie in front of "Touchdown Jesus" or caught in the middle of a White Out, you're doing it wrong.
None of the changes matter to the players in the Army-Navy game. They aren't felt "between the hedges," and I promise that the kids waving back at you from the hospital in Iowa City couldn't care less about the logistics of the game they are watching — outside of it being real and in front of them.
College football is beautiful. It's uniquely American, and it's part of the very fabric of our beings. Nothing you are reading in the headlines right now changes any of that.
The spirit of college football will never die, because we the fans will not let it.
Cover 2 Podcast: The latest in CFB realignment and expansion. What's going on with the Pac-12, Big 12, ACC? Why North Carolina and Virginia are key states to watch?
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! SBNation and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.