Your optimism is misplaced… er, I mean, inspiring.

Okay, Jim Delany, Mike Slive and the rest of that bunch know they’ve screwed up and they’re really, really sorry about that.

… At the 2010 Outback Bowl, Auburn became the first team in 62 years to play on New Year’s Day with a losing conference record. Five more teams have done that since then: Northwestern, Texas Tech, Michigan, Florida and Ohio State.

In the past five years, 10 of the 27 New Year’s Day bowls featured a team without a winning conference record. That occurred in just six of the 221 New Year’s Day bowls from 1968 to 2007.

Fans have been treated like suckers. The powers-that-be figured by putting something on New Year’s Day — even if it was undeserving teams — you’d keep filling seats, watching on TV and building up ratings for BCS bowls in the coming days.

For a while it worked. Then enough of you started paying attention.

BCS bowl attendance last year was down 8 percent compared to 2005, the last season before the addition of a fifth BCS game, the BCS Championship Game. Television viewership for all 2011-12 bowl games dropped 15 percent last year from 2010-11.

The thing is, it’s not like that happened in a vacuum.  It wasn’t an accident.  It’s what TV wanted.  And the conference commissioners were more than happy to comply with the request, as long as the checks rolled in.  Now the panic has set in as the numbers decline.  But who’s to say that the guys who drove the bus into the ditch in the first place are qualified to pilot the tow truck to pull the bowl season out of the ditch?  Does anybody really believe they’d place the sanctity of New Year’s Day above a few more dollars?

I can see why sliding the bowl season past January 1st has had a negative impact on fan attendance.  It’s one thing to ask us to spend a long holiday weekend in New Orleans.  It’s another to schedule a bowl game on the third or fourth of the month and expect fans to spend that much time away from their jobs and lives.

But it’s hard to see what difference that makes with regard to TV viewership.

Here’s what I expect to see in the next postseason deal – the conferences take back the tradition of the first day of the year in one form or fashion.  Ratings improve, because of the novelty of whatever form the BCS replacement takes.  And over time, if the numbers hold up, the calendar starts sliding again, because product is more important than anything to a network and TV revenue is more important than anything to a conference commissioner.  In other words, lather, rinse, repeat.

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16 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

16 responses to “Your optimism is misplaced… er, I mean, inspiring.

  1. Bob

    In Tampa it felt like the Outback Bowl was half empty. Oh wait…it was.

    And TV viewing for the BCS title game was also down…I guess repeats of CSI don’t do as well as the original either.

  2. Ben

    It can’t be helping matters that a majority of the games are being played on cable TV, and ESPN is not a part of most basic packages. There was a time when these games were played on network TV, and anyone who wanted to watch a game could watch the game. I know lots of folks who’ve dropped cable altogether because of the expensive rates, and I’d be willing to be that a lot of college football fans have done the same thing.

    Or I’m completely wrong.

    • Good point – one I’ve made before.

      It’s worth mentioning that while the commissioners may be freaking out about the viewership numbers, it’s likely that Disney isn’t.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        I thought ESPN was part of most basic cable packages and that is why ESPN is so non-responsive to viewers. ESPN already has the per household money (about $5/mo per household) whether grandma watches or not. So the ESPN execs show/do what THEY want rather than what viewers want.

    • Dante

      It’s been a decade now since I stopped paying for satellite or cable. As games increasingly went to cable, there have been offerings like ESPN3 available. There are also less scrupulous options for watching games on the internet, but those options are enough of a pain in the rump that I’ll only bother for Georgia games. Since my current ISP doesn’t provide ESPN3 and ESPN has no interest in letting users get it independent of the ISP, I watch FAR less college football now than I did when the SEC was covered by the CBS/JP combo and major bowl games aired on broadcast TV.

  3. Ralph

    Eliminating half of the bowls would help. If you don’t have a quality team you don’t get invited to a bowl. Better games would result.

    • Macallanlover

      True, better match-ups of quality teams in fewer bowls will drive rating numbers up (and make “football widows” happier) but the WWL has a lot of programming space so they aren’t as worried about higer ratings as they are about selling advertising space. The ratings numbers allow them to charge a premium price, but a live sporting event for CFB fans is still more attractive to advertisers than a re-run of a fishing show, or a discussion about the NBA from dried up players. In other words, the numbers may be spread over more events, but they are still, collectively, larger than the other options.

      I still don’t get the New Year’s Day overload, especially when the SEC with three games over-layed against one another from noon to 5. Better to play the Outback on, say Dec. 30, or Jan. 2 than to have it compete with the Citrus and the Gator in the same time slot. I think you get the max number of fans on New Year’s Day, even if you drop 2-3 games and give a better option on a “light” day when there is only Air Force and Toledo to watch.

      • W Cobb Dawg

        Agree on the New Year’s Day overlap. If the people ‘fixing’ the bowl system are the same one’s who decided to broadcast 3 sec games concurrently, then there’s not much hope for something better.

  4. Biggus Rickus

    I don’t get why people are freaking out. Attendance dipped during a terrible economic period, and ratings dropped when they moved all the games to ESPN. I don’t think people suddenly decided they hate bowl games.

    • Macallanlover

      Yep, as a CFB junkie I am going to watch all, or most of every game I can. Many of the match-ups are not compelling to the average fan, but I can always tape 48 hours and NCIS, etc. for later viewing. Sports need to be watched live, and this is about the only sport I watch much anymore. No complaints about a month of daily CFB options from me; I would like to see a spring season added.

  5. Hogbody Spradlin

    Nice irony that everyone says they don’t want to devalue the regular season, and lo and behold the post season gets devalued first.

  6. paul

    Not only do we have teams with losing conference records, we have teams with overall losing records playing in bowls. We have six and six teams playing in bowls. This past year we had three teams who fired their coaches appear in bowls. Think about that. They performed so poorly they lost their jobs but their team appeared in a bowl. I don’t watch games like that during the regular season, much less during bowl season. There are WAY too many bowl games pairing WAY too many fair to middling teams against one another. What exactly is the incentive to watch?

  7. reipar

    “But it’s hard to see what difference that makes with regard to TV viewership.”

    My simple answer to this is I have to work in the morning. I am sure there are a lot of people who can stay up until midnight or so to watch a bowl game, but I cannot. I have a feeling there are others in the same boat as me. As the % drop regarding viewership is not that large would not take too many people missing the late night weekday BCS games to effect the numbers.

  8. This just reminds me of the first few rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament when the stands are sparsely populated (sans Kentucky fans anywhere and Duke/NC fans at their annual games in Greensboro). I’d like to think that commissioners care about attendance as much as we do for the atmosphere (I think of games like the first blackout in 2007 and how much of a difference the crowd makes for not only the live audience, but the TV viewing audience), the rational part of my brain says they really couldn’t care less as long as the TV dollars make up for the loss in ticket revenues, atmosphere be damned.

  9. Raleigh

    To me, the big bowls were the last hurrah of the holiday season. Once I’m back to work on January 2nd, the priorities change. Watching two teams I don’t give a shit about on wednesday, January 5th is an afterthought.