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USATSI

Aging is an ongoing process of saying goodbye to everything you know. You say farewell to relatives, friends, jobs, hobbies, and ultimately, anything you ever cared about enough to notice. Sometimes, it's by choice, whether one you or somebody else made. Other times, it's out of your control.

Whatever the case, you say goodbye. Thursday, we said goodbye to the Big Ten we once knew.

Many of us have been in love with the sport of college football since our youth. For your's truly, it's been since age 12. As the child of parents who did not attend college, it was not a sport I was born into -- far different from how I was raised to follow the Bears, Bulls and White Sox.

My love for college football developed organically -- returning home from church on a Saturday afternoon on cool, gray days in the fall, heading into my bedroom, turning on the television and seeing a football game on one of the few channels available. It was there that my passion for the Big Ten was formed.

In Chicago, we got one or two Big Ten games per week, usually involving Ohio State or Michigan. Those teams -- and Notre Dame -- were usually the only ones you saw. Through these games, a connection was drawn with the Big Ten -- every team, not one or two. The different uniforms, stadiums, bands and traditions were all appealing. By the time high school began, the goal was to attend a Big Ten university.

As college football became more readily accessible on television, that love for the Big Ten expanded to the other conferences with their own uniforms, stadiums, bands and traditions. Still, the Big Ten was always where it started.

It's been at the center of it all as college football went from a hobby to a career, even as my consumption and perspective of the sport changed drastically. Writing about and covering college football forces one to face head-on the drastic changes the sport has undergone, particularly across the last decade. Those goodbyes were expected and compartmentalized.

Still, through it all, the foundation of the old Big Ten and its traditions remained. When Nebraska joined the conference, it didn't change that much; it felt like a natural fit from a geographical and cultural perspective. When Maryland and Rutgers stepped into the fold, it was only a matter of time before the conference became unrecognizable.

Enter USC and UCLA.

One need not be a Big Ten fan to understand this change is far from surface-level.

With more changes coming by the minute -- altering most of what we grew up loving about the sport -- college football seems to be college football in name only these days. It's quickly growing closer to a professional sports league than whatever our ideal of it was a few years ago when some much-needed changes were in the process of unfolding.

Cynics will say college football has only ever been about money, only now, the facade has completely been stripped away. There's a lot of truth in that sentiment, even if it's an overly simplistic perspective.

More often than not, that view comes from those within our industry who see more closely how the sausage is made. However, those who buy the finished product only know it ultimately tastes delicious. Now, they worry whether it will still taste the same. And that sentiment is much easier to empathize with now.

How will the sport of college football be viewed in the future? It's impossible to know as the 2.0 version of the sport is just beginning to be programmed. Will we still enjoy it? I have no doubt about that. But it's never going to be the same.

So, I guess this is goodbye to College Football 1.0 ... and hello to whatever comes next.