Stewart Mandel makes my head hurt again.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out what makes Stewart Mandel happy.

Just a few days after writing this tedious paean to the bowl system, in which he tells us that “You’ll have to forgive me if I’m in no hurry to see the Fiesta Bowl turn into the ‘NCAA Southwest Regional.’”, he turns right around in this piece where he notes that the TV ratings in several of the BCS games have been sagging since the advent of the fifth game and observes that the way to fix that is – you guessed it – “Obviously, the one certain way to increase interest in such games would be the inception of a playoff.”

Now I watch this stuff anyway, so I’m not the one to ask, but seriously, how many of you out there that didn’t watch the Orange Bowl this year would tune in if they slapped a “playoff” label on it?  And why?

Mandel’s solution to the problem is a non-starter.

… As I’ve written before, it’s time for the BCS to think about revising its selection process in order to create more compelling matchups. Between the various conference partnerships, automatic berths and selection order, there’s almost no flexibility when it comes to which teams the bowls can select.

If USC wants to leave Pasadena for a change — in the case of this season, maybe for the chance to play No. 3 Texas in the Fiesta Bowl — it should have that right. Similarly, there are a whole bunch of rabid, SEC fan bases chomping at the bit for access to the Rose Bowl. I know the folks in Pasadena are wed to their Big Ten-Pac-10 tradition, but how many more USC-Big Ten blowouts can they expect us to stomach?

Sounds great on the surface, but he’s really robbing Peter to pay Paul here.  Sure, you could have tarted up the Rose Bowl the last two years by having SEC teams travel to play USC, but what would that have left the Sugar Bowl with?

The real problem is that the ACC and the Big East haven’t consistently generated top tier teams in the past few years.  (The Big Ten hasn’t been too hot in that area lately, either, especially in terms of depth.)  That’s not the same thing as saying the conferences aren’t competitive or that they’re bad overall, but it’s clear that their best aren’t at the same level year in and year out as the elite teams in other conferences.  That’s how you wind up with an Orange Bowl with two teams not in the top 10 facing off against each other.  That may suck, but there’s no way the BCS conferences are going to give up automatic bids for their champs.

But wait – there’s more!  Mandel does note that ESPN is doing quite well with the rest of its bowl package…

At the same time BCS ratings have been sagging, eight of the 10 highest-rated bowl games in ESPN history have taken place just since 2005, including this year’s Champs Sports and Alamo (Northwestern-Missouri) bowls…

but that’s because of people like me.

… there’s always going to be a segment of diehard football fans who tune in to those early games. The key to racking up what used to be far larger audiences for the BCS bowls is to draw in more casual fans — the type for whom New Year’s Day football has been a longstanding tradition.

That’s another area where the BCS, and bowls in general, have erred. By spreading out the traditional New Year’s games farther and farther each year (this year there were more games played on Dec. 31 than Jan. 1), the original appeal of these games has become irrelevant.

Whether you agree with that or not (and I do to some extent agree that spreading the games out has reduced viewership), whose fault is that?  Not the bowls, Mandel, but Fox TV.  The bowls are just doing Fox’s bidding.  That’s what happens when you take The Man’s money.  From the bowls’ standpoint, it’s a small price to pay.  And after all, ESPN did just outbid Fox significantly for those broadcast rights, so somebody with a checkbook must think the BCS is doing something right.

In Mandel’s world, though, declining TV ratings are “a BCS problem, not a TV problem”.  Some problem, but what do I know?  I watched the Orange Bowl.

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7 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Media Punditry/Foibles

7 responses to “Stewart Mandel makes my head hurt again.

  1. At times, it’s almost as if Mandel wants to race CFN’s Pete Futiak (sp?) to the bottom of College Football’s Insanity Gorge.

  2. The Realist

    Yeah. It’s not that the BCS is lagging. Fox is absolutely abhorrent. When ESPN takes over, the quality of the broadcasts will likely spike. And, since we have ESPN and ESPN2, we could stuff them all into Dec. 31-Jan.1 like they were to begin with instead of playing the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 5th… on a Monday night.

  3. I don’t have a problem spacing them out a bit. It seems silly to spend that much money and then have them in overlapping time slots.

    They are big games. They should stand on their own merit. But a full week of spacing is silly?

    2 BCS Bowls on Jan. 1
    1 on Jan. 2
    1 on Jan. 3
    National title 1 on Jan. 4

    The problem is 1 BCS site hosting 2 games. That’s dumb. The sooner they ditch that idea in favor of the Jerry Jones’ Cotton Bowl hosting the “5th BCS Game” the better.

    Then you’d just rotate the alignments around for bowls. If the Rose was hosting the MNC, send the Pac 10 Champs to the Fiesta, the Big 12 Champ to the Cotton and let the Big East and Big 10 float.

    Or, if Sugar was hosting, let our champ go to the Cotton.

    You’d end up with better variety that way in terms of destinations for fans and match-ups for teams.

  4. Wolfman

    I hate it that they spread out the bowls, but it is working for FOX. I would never have watched the Orange Bowl if anything else was on. But since there wasn’t, I haven’t. I have a feeling, though, that the next two games might have declined viewership. Even somebody like me, who loves the bowls, almost forgot there were some games this week. This is an instance where the NFL playoff schedule got in the way. Hooray for ESPN’s forthcoming coverage — no NFL conflicts to speak of. Maybe then we can actually play these bowls in a decent amount of time.

    Besides, it doesn’t matter when you play some of them. Is there anyone besides a diehard college football fan who would tune in to see Northern Illinois play La. Tech in the Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl?

  5. You guys forget this year was a year in which New Years fell on a Thursday meaning there was going to be two potential games on Saturday and Sunday, wild card playoffs in the NFL. The powers to be know better than to try and compete with the NFL, which is the most viewed sports in America BTW. It doesn’t matter if it were Fox, ESPN, ABC, NBC, or CBS. None of them would be showing any games this past weekend. They know better than that.

  6. Wow. Easy answer.

    I’d watch the Orange, or the Fiesta bowl, because it would MATTER who won.

    If UGA is not involved, wtf do I care who ends up 5th and who ends up 7th? Irrelevant.

    But to watch teams to see who gets eliminated and who gets to move on? That’s exciting.

    -Michael
    Muckbeast – Game Design and Online Worlds
    http://www.muckbeast.com