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.