James Carville won’t watch the Zooker.

Making the rounds right now is a pretty fervent anti-BCS rant from James Carville on ESPN. The man knows how to work an audience.

One thing he’s pissed off about is the Rose Bowl matchup between USC and Illinois:

… The reason we get stuck with the Rose Bowl and Southern Cal vs. Illinois, a game nobody wants to see, instead of Southern Cal vs.Georgia, a game everybody wants to see, is because the Rose Bowl has to do this Big Ten thing because that’s the only way the Big Ten can make money, nobody wants to watch their stinkin’ teams after their champion …

Well!  Take that, Mr. Delany!

Only one problem:  that doesn’t really seem to be the case. If you go here, you can see the TV ratings for the BCS for the ’02-’03, the ’03-’04, the ’04-’05 and the ’05-’06 seasons. The Rose Bowl was never worse than second in viewing audience in any of those periods. In those years, the only game that had more viewers than the Rose Bowl was the BCS title game, wherever it was hosted.

That’s played out in the list of all time BCS TV ratings (1998-2006) at the bottom of that page. The top six are title games; thereafter the Rose Bowl dominates the listings. There are Rose Bowl games that have outdrawn title games. All of which means that somebody is watching the damned thing year after year.

So it would appear that Mr. Carville is a better polemicist than historian. (Either that, or maybe those ratings are something else that’s the fault of the vast right-wing conspiracy.)

It’s fine to debate how to address the perceived flaws of the BCS as it stands now. But if you’re going to start ripping things up on the way to establishing a new world order, at least get the facts straight before you pull out your knife.



Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Media Punditry/Foibles

25 responses to “James Carville won’t watch the Zooker.

  1. robert

    Carville needs to not be so shy about speaking his mind. He is right and we all know it….especially so re his comments about the officiating in Pitt-W Va game. While watching that game, I did not know how the officials could have made it any more obvious that they wanted a Big East team in the championship game. Fortunately for Pitt, they were able to beat not only W Va but the officiating crew also. The latter being tougher than the former. Thought I was having a flashback of watching a Penn Wager’s crew calling a game v. UGA. Had that officiating occurred in a big SEC game, the officials would most definitely have needed a Blackwater escort to escape from the stadium.


  2. The Big East has had some of the most crapulent officiating imaginable this season.

    As bad as those calls were in the Pitt-WVU game (and they were bad), for my money nothing beats the “phantom” fair catch call from the UConn-Louisville game.

    Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the shirts are corrupt or inept.


  3. robert


    That call must have priceless. I missed the U Conn-Louisville game and any re-run of the play on ESPN but will try to find that call or non-call on YouTube.

    I have been going to, and watching on television, SEC college football since the mid-1960’s when Ga Tech and Tulane were still members of the conference. The Bama-Ga Tech games were incredible for savage defense. If a score in that game reached 13-10 it would have been classifed as an offensive battle.

    I never thought much of Big East football until the W Va – UGA Sugar Bowl. That’s why I greatly respect Hawaii now even though I have never watched any of UH’s games.

    Wannstadt had the absolute right to be blowing a gasket because that game was in danger of being taken away from his team repeatedly. Him being on crutches may have been the only thing that kept him from trying to throttle the officals.

    We were playing a variation of the Brent Musberger game in the second half knowing that whenever Pitt made a good play on offensive or defensive, they would be flagged. We noticed a lot of late flags and noticed that the officials would be waiting and looking at each other hoping the other would throw the flag because it had to be so embarrassing for them.

    With the amount of money at stake combined with the pressure of winning (look at all of the coaches purged at the end of the season which demonstrates that you are only as good as your last hit record, e.g., Phil Fulmer who will be feeling the heat notwithstanding a SEC championship game appearance and David Cutliffe’s strange domination over my team for the past two seasons), it is incredible that officiating is sometimes still as bad as it always has been.


  4. Chuck

    You’ve misunderstood his argument, I think. He says that the Big-10 has secured a political tie-in with the Rose because that’s the only way they can make money. He grants that the Rose is wildly successful, so providing those stats does nothing to touch his point that America wouldn’t care about the Big-10 teams if they weren’t tied to a bowl that is woven into the cultural fabric.


  5. And you don’t think that Big Ten participation in Rose Bowl contributes to that tapestry?

    Why do you believe people watch that game, if it’s not about the conference matchup?


  6. Chuck

    Contributes, sure. Constitutes entirely, no.

    What would the ratings be if it were UGA vs. USC this year? Lower?


  7. Ally

    Senator, I agree with you that obviously James didn’t do his homework. But is it a stretch to suggest that this year could be different?

    I mean, given the strength of the Atlanta market, isn’t it possible that a USC / UGA match-up would garner more attention than the upcoming USC/Illinois game?

    Maybe I’m way off base, but hat’s what I took from his rant, anyways.


  8. Y’all are missing the point here.

    Carville insists that the Rose Bowl flies in the face of public interest in selecting Big Ten teams that nobody wants to see. Like it or not, the TV numbers don’t back that up.

    And Ally, as for the strength of the Atlanta TV market, do you think it’s that much stronger than the Chicago market?


  9. In terms that Carville himself might employ, “I think it depends on what the definition of ‘want’ is.”

    Just because people “do” watch the Rose Bowl matchups doesn’t summarily mean that they “want” to see those matchups.

    Example: It is 11:00 pm EST on a Saturday night and I have not yet overdosed on watching CFB all day long. I would “want” to see an SEC game, but instead, I get Boise State vs. San Jose State. I still watch it because it is better than watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, McGuyver reruns, or Flav-a-Flav looking for true love. It is a form of reluctant assent.

    Or maybe, Carville was just spinning his own version of the “truth.”


  10. Just because people “do” watch the Rose Bowl matchups doesn’t summarily mean that they “want” to see those matchups.

    OK, but the Rose Bowl consistently outdraws all of the other bowl games, except the title game. So why do folks gravitate to it more than the other bowls?

    After all, it’s not shown at 11:00 at night. 😉


  11. Ally

    Senator, okay I concede to your point. I guess I just took something different from the interview yesterday. But, you’re right, the numbers don’t lie. I have to say that I’m surprised by those numbers though. I rarely ever watch the Rose Bowl b/c of the Big Ten/Pac relationship. Its just old & tired to me, but I’m obviously in the minority.

    And, I do think the Atlanta market would be greater in our match-up (that sounds horribly biased on the surface I know) b/c the Chicago market is not predominantly U of Ill supporting from what I understand. My best friend is a Media Buyer and we were talking about this very issue the other day.


  12. You don’t have to look at the TV numbers, just look a the selection procedures.

    The Sugar had to give it’s consent to take UGA–which there’s no way they would’ve done. Whether the Rose would’ve asked is an open question, but we’ll probably never know who they would’ve chosen if really given the choice.


  13. The only reason I press this point is that one thing a lot of folks like to dismiss in the whole BCS-playoff debate is the tradition of college football.

    Now I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not the primary consideration in the era of $$$, but it hasn’t eroded away completely, either. And I think it’s wrong to attribute what the Rose Bowl has decided purely as a corrupt, money-based decision. But that’s Carville’s real agenda with this bit – blast the motives (real or otherwise) of those whom you oppose so that you can discredit their position and let the wiser heads (at least those who Carville feels are the wiser heads, anyway) prevail.

    That’s why I enjoy the irony of a guy who describes himself as “old-fashioned” in the same breath arguing to do away with a bowl structure that’s been in place for decades now.


  14. One more thing to consider here.

    Let’s say Carville got his way with a Georgia-USC match in the Rose Bowl. Wouldn’t that game run the risk of undercutting what the BCS is supposed to be about, namely, to drive a #1 and a #2 into a title game and come up with an undisputed champ?

    Is it rational for the BCS to deliver a game that might lead to a split MNC? How much criticism would there be over the process if that happened?

    To trash a famous saying, the BCS is not a suicide pact. 😉


  15. Ally

    When my father asks me (almost weekly) why I never followed in his footsteps to law school, I’m gonna start pointing to you Senator… you’re an excellent debator and one to whom I wouldn’t want to face in a courtroom, boardroom, or washroom for that matter 😉


  16. Heh – and I’ve tried to talk my oldest out of law, to no avail. She’s going to law school next fall.

    I’m not as good at debate as you think. 😉


  17. Chuck

    “Carville insists that the Rose Bowl flies in the face of public interest in selecting Big Ten teams that nobody wants to see. Like it or not, the TV numbers don’t back that up.”

    Illinois is a Big Ten team that nobody wants to see, de facto.

    Therefore, at least in this instance, the Rose Bowl picked a Big Ten team that nobody wants to see over other more compelling candidates. This was probably done as a result of political pressure from the Big Ten since, as you correctly state, they bring viewers in droves with good teams as a general rule.

    That said, this year’s Rose, being an exception to that rule, will have high ratings despite, not because of, the presence of a Big Ten team. As Hamp Tanner said above, America cares about the Rose, but it does not care about 9-3 Illinois football.

    And regarding Carville’s bit about being old-fashioned, it’s much more “old-fashioned” to select a victor in sports directly through competition than it is to have the bowls–thousands of years more, to be specific. The comment was tongue-in-cheek.

    When USC is up by 24 at halftime, watch the entire Eastern time zone go to sleep. Blowouts are not good for ratings unless it’s the Patriots.

    The potential for a split national title due to the USC vs. UGA game would have been virtually zero, I think it’s safe to say. Regardless, that point of yours is FURTHER implication of the BCS bowl system. The very idea that one should prefer to have one compelling game and then a hoard of mediocre ones to avoid threatening the legitimacy of the title game shows how fragile the current system’s claim to match the #1 and #2 teams really is.

    You rarely hear Bronze medalists complaining that they should have received the Gold instead except in case of a steroid scandal. That’s because the matter is settled in head to head competition.

    Incidentally, I think your blog is the best of the UGA blogs and I read it daily.


  18. Rival

    Didn’t some of those Rose Bowls in the years you mentioned feature Michigan vs. Texas and Texas vs. USC?

    Maybe people weren’t watching for the Big-10.


  19. Chuck, first off, thanks very much for the praise.

    If you go to the BCS website I linked to, here are the three highest rated BCS games that weren’t for the title:

    7. Rose Bowl 2004 Michigan-USC 14.4
    8. Rose Bowl 2000 Wisconsin-Stanford 14.1
    9. Rose Bowl 2001 Washington-Purdue 14.0

    Tell me the truth, guys, do you find #s 8 and 9 any more compelling than this year’s matchup?


  20. david

    People watch the rose bowl because it’s the rose bowl. sure, it was built on that big ten-pac-10 matchup decades ago, but now people watch it because it’s tradition. you could put any half-assed bowl teams in it and it would still draw because it’s the rose bowl and it airs unopposed on new year’s night.


  21. Isn’t the Sugar Bowl usually a night game?

    And the Rose Bowl is an afternoon game this season.


  22. Chuck

    Sugar Bowl was a night game last year and had a rating of 17.3 for the LSU and Notre Dame fiasco, a higher rating than any non-championship Rose Bowl ever. I guess the nation really enjoyed watching the humiliation of Notre Dame.

    Anyway, I guess the question is do people love the Rose or do people love the Big Ten vs Pac 10 in the Rose? Maybe it’s too hard to separate them out since they are so tied together, but a UGA vs USC game this year would have out-drawn Illinois vs USC, right? Also, I think if the Rose is a blow-out by halftime, the ratings will go down in the second half pretty dramatically. If it stays close the entire game, it could be a hugely rated game as the close games between seemingly mismatched teams in 2000 and 2001 were.


  23. I guess the nation really enjoyed watching the humiliation of Notre Dame.

    I know I did.


  24. dean

    One of the most entertaining videos I’ve seen in a while. Whether you agree with him or not it’s damn funny watching his facial expressions when he starts talking about the Rose bowl. I also found it funny how he dodges the question about the BCS working to his schools favor, twice.


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