Rumors have been floating around for weeks that the University of Miami is eyeing Oregon’s Mario Cristobal to take over their head coaching vacancy, just one of many moves that has happened in the insanity that is this year’s college coaching carousel. But the U, a former powerhouse hoping to return to glory, has thrown a small wrench in the rumor mill — they reportedly succeeded in blocking their airplane’s movements from flight tracking websites, one of college football’s weirdest and most wonderful niche obsessions.
The flight trackers of universities’ private jets shuttling between small airports in college towns are monitored closely by fans of the sport, wondering who will be making a move next. A flight from South Bend to Norman — does OU want someone from Notre Dame, or the other way around? What a curious case! A flight from Miami to Bend wouldn’t leave quite as much to the imagination in this situation, of course, but a flight from Birmingham to Oklahoma City? Meaningless to the average viewer, but for those who knew that Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables was recruiting in northern Alabama, a major break in the mystery of the next Sooners coach. There’s a science to this, a dedication so pure and so detailed that it borders on obsession.
And if this all sounds a bit insane, the screenshots of flights posted across Twitter and message boards, it’s because it is. College football is kind of crazy, and the fans are so deep into the psychosis of the sport that things like this seem completely normal to do. The Ringer had a very accurate description of what it’s like to be in the insular world of CFB fandom and the impossibility of describing why you care about these things to any outsiders. And no, flight tracking isn’t unique to college football fans, as fans of other sports are wont to do the same with the same resources, but at its core, it is just sooo college football.
But this Miami blockage may be the sign of a new era in fan stalking. If more universities care enough to do it, at least. Which I’m not sure that they do, since the speculations from the flight trackers are usually left to the message boards. And it also literally doesn’t matter if the fans know ahead of time (although perhaps we can avoid the Brian Kelly-esque situations of earlier this week with a bit more heads up), but the politics of college football always lean weird. We might have to start getting more creative (read: follow in the footsteps of those Oklahoma student journalists who watched practice with binoculars and broke the news that Caleb Williams was getting first-team reps).