Those who are in the business of competing for your sports dollars and cents will tell you they are in a real dog fight at the moment.

A report released by the NCAA this week said attendance at NCAA football games dipped for a fourth consecutive year.

The drop this season — a decrease of an across-the-board average of 3.2 percent — was the largest since 1983.

In WVU’s case, the Mountaineers’ 2017 average attendance for home games was 55,946, which was above the national average of 42,108, but down 2.8 percent from the 2016 season.

In any case, marketing departments across the country will tell you a certain percentage of this downward trend centers on the increasing popularity of fans staying home and watching the game on a 60-inch plasma TV, where they don’t have to wait in lines for the bathroom, pay $8 for a $2 beer and can get as rowdy as they want in their own living rooms, back decks or man caves.

There is truth to all of it, of course, but there is more to this story. And a university’s marketing department can’t do anything to battle this, because it was the universities that did it to themselves.

My theory: Good, old-fashioned greed is rounding the first turn in good stride in the race that may ultimately shape the future of college athletics.

The greed we’re talking about began around 15 years ago, when we first started to learn about just how big-time the big-time world of college football actually was.

You remember it as the start of conference realignment, or the days of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College leaving the Big East for the ACC.

The events that followed reshaped the college football landscape. A lot of schools got a lot of money for switching leagues, and then those leagues made a lot of money with new TV deals.

All of it may have been done in the best interests of “the future of each institution,” but it was just greed that had each school hell-bent on remaining at the big boys’ table.

And somewhere along the way, remember how it was sold to the rest of us?

All of the movement was going to create new rivalries and make for new moments against new opponents.

Except Pitt vs. Virginia, as we soon found out, just isn’t that exciting. Neither is Colorado vs. Washington State or Texas A&M vs. Tennessee.

It all sounded great at first. Here at home, thinking about WVU versus Oklahoma or Texas was something new and exciting.

It all sounded good, too, to the fans at Missouri, Louisville, Nebraska, Syracuse, TCU and all the other schools that switched allegiances. Until they found out that it was still just regular old football, just against guys wearing different uniforms.

My guess is that once that new-found curiosity subsided, fans realized they weren’t emotionally committed to their new conferences or these new opponents and decided to stay home to support the home team.

And who can blame them?

All the promotions schools come up with can’t erase the fact that these new conference alignments just aren’t as exciting as they were billed to be.

In the process, you took rivalries and traditions away from the one sport that, at one time, truly was at the top of the list in celebrating rivalries and traditions.

And you can sugarcoat the decrease in attendance all you want with talk of HD Smart TVs, but somewhere in the back of the minds of each Power 5 president and athletic director, they have to understand that it was simple greed that got them to this point.

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