Give the people what they want.

One of these days, I’m going to get it through my thick skull that college football’s capacity to disappoint me is bottomless.  Just when I thought I couldn’t be more bummed out about the future of the sport, along comes this:

ESPN plans to study college football data this offseason for an age-old question in sports: Does more scoring produce higher television viewership?

CBS set record ratings this season for the SEC in a year in which the conference shattered many of its offensive records. Viewership is up on ESPN for this season’s BCS bowls, which have been some of the highest-scoring in the histories of those games.

“There’s sort of an anecdotal opinion that high-scoring games bring more people to the set,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s senior vice president of college sports programming.

Oh, goody.  And, gee, if that turns out to be the case, I wonder what the WWL will want to do about it.  Well, let everybody’s favorite hack explain it to you.

“I heard from a purist this morning who said, ‘You guys have ruined the game with all this scoring,’” BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said this week. “I like them both. I was looking forward to the rock’ em, sock ‘em Rose Bowl, and I was looking forward to what we anticipated happening at the Fiesta Bowl. The casual fan would rather see 52-45 than 7-6. Fans love offense. And I think during games people are talking people telling them, ‘You need to tune in.’”

Chicks dig the long ball!  And ESPN digs chicks.  The more, the merrier.

Now certainly on one level this is simply the result of being in a golden era of offensive innovation – as a reminder, you could do worse than check out the latest thing Chris Brown has written about what Malzahn is up to – but college football, just like any other sport, can make changes to the rules that open up scoring regardless of the prevailing offensive schemes.  Let’s face it, offensive holding is almost extinct.  The new targeting rules, while ostensibly created for other purposes, also restrict defenses.  Officials’ approach to running no huddle attacks has definitely been relaxed over the last decade, as any Georgia fan can tell you.  And there’s plenty more where that came from (I keep expecting the NCAA to adopt the NFL’s rule for pass interference).

Bottom line, if there’s one thing we know from the past few years, it’s that what ESPN wants, it generally gets.  Payment has its privileges.  And if big scoring games drive viewership, which in turn drives rights fees, what do you think Bill Hancock’s bosses will do in response?  Yeah, that’s what I think, too.

This isn’t about defense über alles, either.  I’m not longing for an world of Auburn 3, Mississippi State 2.  I was enthralled as anybody with the Georgia-LSU back and forth in this season’s meeting.  But the idea that college football needs to tinker with the margins to make the sport appealing to casual fans – bracket lovers, if I may be allowed the analogy – strikes me as both profoundly stupid for a sport that is so obviously built on a passionate fan base as well as insulting to those of us who already love what we’ve got.

Anyway, here’s hoping I’m wrong about what that study turns up.  After all, if offense were everything, wouldn’t Conference USA have dominated the ratings over the past decade?

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23 Comments

Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil

23 responses to “Give the people what they want.

  1. Scorpio Jones, III

    Bluto ESPN has no interest in the fans they already got…those passionate fans you mention. They already got them. What they are interested in, as should be obvious by any number of markers…just listen to the announcers for 10 minutes…is that the WWL is driven to attract just the viewers most of us can not fucking stand to be in the same stadium with. The casual viewer…the pickup truck almuni, if you will, the bandwagoners.

    So yeah, I would suspect any polling they do will be along the lines of most of the political polling done by any of the three cable networks…jiggered to produce the desired result.

    I might point out that at least one of these cable network pollsters blew a presidential election because he set up his final polling based on his premise that black voters did not turn out in Florida. Not that that little mistake has cost him any air time.

    I am beginning to believe Malzahn is a great gift to us real fans…his ability to adjust and modify his offense based on the players he has or the players he can get is fun to watch…I actually think it is miraculous, but if I said that it would be taken as somehow cheering for Awbun.

    If football is blocking and tackling, then watching the Awbun clips in the article is goosebumping….blocking, man, blocking. The schemes are brilliant and the execution is stirring… Awbun BLOCKS.

    I note that Vandy’s o line coach is Malzahn-schooled, which is interesting.

  2. mg4life0331

    One thing is for certain. With all the rule changing scoring is going up. Not just in college. Is it cyclical like conferences getting stronger and weaker over time? Who knows.

  3. Nashville West

    I can’t stand the stupid targeting rules. It would be better to put flags on the quarterbacks and receivers and just acknowledge that they are no longer real football players. And this penalty/non-ejection thing is just insane.

    But I also understand that they want higher scoring and to avoid head injuries to the pencilnecks, I mean quarterbacks. I think that there is a way to get more scoring and protect quarterbacks. First, get rid of the ridiculous targeting rules.Instead, give the defense 2 points for every tackle of the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage, aka a sack.

    In order to avoid giving up 2 points the head coaches and offensive coordinators will come up with new and innovative ways to protect the quarterback. The 2 points lost will be a concrete incentive to protect the quarterback, rather than the abstract concept of a season or career ending injury. Maybe we’ll see a resurgence in the running game or more fullbacks and blocking tight ends. Anything would be better than this moronic targeting rule that we have now.

    If they want to further reduce injuries they could change the footwear. If everyone wore something like Keds it would slow everyone down. Force equals mass times acceleration. Slow down the acceleration and you reduce the force. Reduce the force and you reduce the injuries. Because everyone will be slower it should not have a major impact on the game. Even the shoe companies should like it because everyone will have to get new shoes. Again, it’s got to be better than the insipid targeting rules.

    Oh well, the off season is a time for dreaming, no way that they would even consider something like this. Thank you Senator for giving us a place to vent.

    • Dawgfan Will

      I still like Joe Paterno’s idea of going back to leather helmets. I suspect you’d quickly see an increase in form tackling.

    • Debby Balcer

      It is not only to protect the quarterbacks but also the defender who can be hurt by that type of play. I don’t want to watch flag football but I also want it as safe as possible.

  4. jack

    Do you remember the crowd at the Alabama game in 1976? Or the crowd reaction when Davis or Blue would make a big play? Fans still love great defense but, you are right, it may not translate to TV, which more and more is becoming a video game experience.

  5. TennesseeDawg

    Holding has been eliminated. The only team in D-1 that seems not to understand this is Georgia since our guys are still not using it to their advantage

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      While your statement about holding is generally true, the refs still call it when a Georgia player holds. That seems to be the only exception.

    • And am I the only one who thinks the reduced holding calls are intentional, and done by the SEC to make sure the offense goes up and points bring in fans?

      • Nope.

        It’s also why there’s been a sea change on tolerating the running of no-huddle offenses from what Richt faced ten years ago.

        • Yep. The SEC office actually made a decision to slow the Richt offense down.

          And they did so, to the extent where Richt just abandoned it as there was no point in running it. They slowed it down so much it was just as advantageous to huddle up.
          ~~~

      • And am I the only one who thinks the reduced holding calls are intentional, and done by the SEC to make sure the offense goes up…

        No sir. You are not alone.
        ~~~

  6. If you like your defense, you can keep your defense…….oh wait, that’s another subject……

  7. Hogbody Spradlin

    Preach on brother. Preach on.

  8. Bulldawg165

    I’m curious as to whether or not the high scoring this season is more due to rule changes (or lack of enforcing holding penalties) or offensive innovation. I posted awhile back that the median scoring offense has really only increased 2-3 points in the last 6-7 years but I should have also calculated the average scoring offense for D-1. It seems like some schools have offenses that have really taken off and some are still straggling behind which wouldn’t necessarily be shown by just looking at the median. Alas, I’m on my phone with no Microsoft excel so I won’t have the answer until tomorrow when this post has long been forgotten.

  9. All I can say is I agree with the OP. The evolution of offense that has been enabled by the rules, has crossed the line. Maybe not by much, but there is already a danger we could lose the game.

    If they rolled back the offense just a little, to where it was 5 or so years ago, maybe it would be about right. But it’s gotten a little ridiculous.
    ~~~

  10. Erskine

    ESPN has never been known to go against it’s market research, so if they have determined more offense = more viewers = more $$$$, get ready for glorified 7 on 7 format coming in the very near future.

  11. SouthGaDawg

    Bill Hancock doesn’t run college football – ESPN does.

  12. Always Someone Else's Fault

    Law of diminishing returns. Scoring is becoming boring. Seriously. Watching DBs chasing WRs on verticals, waving their arms and shouting, “Miss it!” is getting very old very fast.

    • Very good point. At some point, TD’s don’t mean so much because they aren’t that hard to obtain.

      In the NFL, TD’s don’t come easy, even with the rules consistently tweaked to help the offense. Watching the Green Bay – San Francisco game today, it occurred to me how precious a touchdown was. And that was a big part of what made the game great.
      ~~~