At the beginning of many prime time NFL games, the starting players say their names and the college they attended. Why are the college names announced? Many of these players have been in the league for many reasons, and may have even played in multiple NFL teams since they left NCAA.

So what is the reason behind mentioning the college names? Do the colleges sponsor the NFL or the broadcasting stations for this?

To understand this phenomenon, you need to know something about the culture of sports in the US.

First: there is no promotion/relegation system for professional sports. This means that in any particular sport, most of the US has no local professional team at the highest level. And if you are not living near a major metropolis, you are not likely to ever get one. There are 32 NFL teams with no expansion on the horizon.

Conversely, there are 128 teams at the top level of NCAA football (Football Bowl Subdivision). Over 97% of the population1 lives in a state with at least one school which plays at the FBS level. This gives nearly everyone in the US some kind of local team to root for. (And unlike NFL games, it's actually affordable to go to a college game.)

Second: NFL teams are not a constant. College teams are. NFL franchises, unlike European football clubs, are not tied to a city. Just in the last two years, three different franchises either moved (St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles, San Diego Chargers to Los Angeles) or announced plans to move (Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas). Or look at Baltimore: the old Baltimore Colts won three NFL championships and a Super Bowl, then moved to Indianapolis and won another Super Bowl. The Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore, changed their name to the Ravens, and won a couple of Super Bowls; meanwhile, a new Cleveland Browns team was formed to replace them.

Colleges don't do that. If you live in Alabama and your grandpa's grandpa lived in Alabama, you're still rooting for the same school that he did. Or maybe you did switch from Alabama to Auburn (or vice versa), and that could cause tension at family gatherings for years because the rest of your family is still loyal. This happens all over the country, but most particularly in the South (source: anecdotal).

It is also important to note that perhaps none of you actually went to the school that you cheer for. You may have gone to another major school, a small school, or no college at all. College attendance is not a prerequisite to college fandom.

Third: College sports predated professional sports by decades. I touched on this in the last point. College sports are more established, though the NFL has better television deals now. People grew up watching their team.


All of that is to tell you this: in large swaths of the United States, people watch the NFL -- but they care about college football.

I personally know people who root for a particular NFL team that's halfway across the country and isn't particularly good, just because they have players that went to the local university. The players know this, the networks know this, and they give the people what they want.2


Footnotes:

1 Eight states do not have an FBS team: New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, the Dakotas, Alaska, and Vermont. The combined population of those states is less than 9 million out of the 322 million living in the fifty states.

2 I'm not even touching here on the secondary issue of "my school is better than yours because we put more players in the pros". This answer is plenty long enough already. That's also why I didn't mention Division 2 football or try to address cultural differences in the South vs. Northeast vs. West, etc.

  • It's a bit of a stretch to call a team "local" because they're within the same enormous chunk of land, despite being hundreds of kilometres away. There are regions where a person in one state is closer (by a significant margin) to the teams of at least three other states than "their" one. – Nij Sep 19 '17 at 6:56
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    @Nij: In states as large as you describe, the "local" school is almost always called "<State> University". That brings the powerful force of state loyalty into play, which usually trumps geographic proximity. – Michael Myers Sep 19 '17 at 7:09

there is no need for them to mention the college that they went to. Some players mention the high school that they went to and some have even mentioned their middle school or elementary school. The school as part of the introduction is just done to give the players a chance to give a shout out to their schools and is a way of giving back to the schools that they went to and helped them have a career.

To piggy-back on Michael's comment, people like their NFL team, but they LOVE the college teams. There's much more emotion involved in college sports in the U.S. and people will like or dislike a player specifically because of the college they went to. Outside of the college, the conference pride (SEC, Big 10) is big as well.

Saying the college is a way to show their pride in their school or conference. Yes some have said High School, I've never heard anyone say anything less, but that probably has to do with the High Schools that are football factories.

The concept of noting your University is to emphasize you are a professional. Your Alma mater was where you earned your sheepskin in order to ply your trade. It is most evident in football players, but take a look in your doctor/dentist/lawyer offices - they each proudly display where they attended university.

When a football player opts to indicate his high school and yes even his grammar school, he has missed the point entirely.

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Which college you attend can influence one's view of how good a player is at first sight, IE: If you see someone drafted straight out of high school, you assume that they would be very good to make the leap from High School to the NFL. If you see someone who was attending a good university, you know that they must have been good to get a sports scholarship at a large university. It can also be used for trivia, like on TNF when Terry Bradshaw plays trivia. It is a fun fact to know about your favorite player, and test really how much you like a player. It can also influence which college you could go to. IE: If you see that your favorite player is from Davidson, at a young age you will be determined to go to that college. It is most likely used for online marketing for college, and just is a great fact to know

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protected by Nij Nov 11 at 9:02

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