Category Archives: BCS/Playoffs

“At the end of the day, we’re 18- to 22-year-old college students so there’s a lot going on.”

When the next round of playoff expansion comes, I’m sure there will be a lot of talk from Bill Hancock about how the suits have carefully and thoughtfully considered student-athletes’ welfare in their decision.

It’s just that there’s so much money.

**************************************************************************

UPDATE:  Moar.

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Back in my day, sonny, people used to watch the Rose Bowl.

This is fine.

The USC/Penn State Rose Bowl scored a 9.4 overnight rating on ESPN Monday afternoon, up 19% from Stanford/Iowa last year (7.9) but down 16% from Michigan State/Stanford in 2014, the last Rose Bowl of the BCS era (11.2). The 2015 Rose Bowl was a playoff semifinal and had a 15.5 overnight. The last Rose Bowl to take place on January 2, Oregon/Wisconsin in 2012, had a 9.9.

The Trojans’ comeback, last-second win — which peaked at a 12.4 overnight from 9:15-9:30 PM ET — earned the second-lowest Rose Bowl overnight in at least 15 years and likely further back.

Though low historically, the 9.4 overnight was a high-water mark by New Year’s Six standards. It was the highest overnight for a non-playoff New Year’s Six bowl (12 telecasts dating back to 2014), topping the previous mark of 7.9 for last year’s Rose Bowl.

Later in the night, the Oklahoma/Auburn Sugar Bowl had a 6.1 overnight — up 15% from last year’s subterranean 5.3 for Mississippi/Oklahoma State but down 34% from Oklahoma/Alabama in 2014, the last Sugar Bowl of the BCS era (9.3). The 2015 Sugar Bowl was a playoff semifinal and had a 15.3 overnight.

The 6.1 is the second-lowest for the Sugar Bowl since the 1995-96 season, when Virginia Tech/Texas had a 5.5 on New Year’s Eve.

Rounding out the day’s action, the Wisconsin/Western Michigan Cotton Bowl plumbed the depths with a 3.2 overnight — down 40% from Michigan State/Baylor in 2015 (5.3) and even down 26% from Missouri/Oklahoma State on FOX in 2014, which aired directly opposite the Orange Bowl and was not part of a major bowl alliance (4.3). Last year’s Cotton Bowl was a playoff semifinal and had a 9.9 overnight. In the comparable timeslot last year, a higher-profile Ohio State/Notre Dame Fiesta Bowl had a 6.2.

The 3.2 is the lowest for the Cotton Bowl in at least a decade.

In all, the full New Year’s Six averaged a 7.8 overnight on ESPN this year — up 10% from last year (7.1) and down 5% from 2014-15 (8.2).

If you’re a major bowl game in the post-BCS era and you’re not hosting a national semi-finals game, your numbers are trending down and likely to stay that way.

Which means there’s only one solution to your dilemma…

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Hitting the sweet spot

The numbers are in and it’s about the worst news ESPN could have gotten.

After a huge freshman year and a sophomore slump, the third edition of the College Football Playoff split the difference in the metered markets.

Coverage of the College Football Playoff semifinals delivered an 11.0 overnight on ESPN and ESPN2 Saturday, up 11% from last year (9.9), but still well below the 15+ the games averaged two years ago. ESPN alone averaged a 10.4, up 6%.

In particular, the Alabama/Washington Peach Bowl had a combined 11.5 overnight rating on ESPN and ESPN2 — up 17% from last year’s Clemson/Oklahoma Orange Bowl (9.8) but down 26% from the Oregon/Florida State Rose Bowl two years ago, which aired on ESPN alone (15.5). ESPN’s solo telecast had a 10.9 overnight (+12%).

Last year’s Houston/Florida State Peach Bowl, which was not a playoff game, had a 4.0 overnight.

In the nightcap, the Clemson/Ohio State Fiesta Bowl had a 10.5 overnight on ESPN and ESPN2 — up 5% from last year’s Alabama/Michigan State Cotton Bowl (10.0) but down 31% from Ohio State/Alabama in the Sugar Bowl two years ago, which aired on ESPN alone (15.3). ESPN’s solo coverage had a 10.0, up a tick from last year.

Last year’s Ohio State/Notre Dame Fiesta Bowl, also not part of the playoff, had a 6.2 overnight.

Up some, but not up to where things started, in other words.  Had the New Year’s Eve numbers tanked completely for a second straight year, Mickey could have gone with the full court press on abandoning the day for the semis.  Instead, Bill Hancock gets to provide the narrative that the fans are coming around to college football’s newest tradition.  It’ll give the CFP folks at least a couple more seasons before they have to respond to any push from their broadcast partner.

I bet there are a lot of smiling faces at Bristol this week.  Not.

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Nice playoff system you got there, college football. Be a shame if anything were to happen to it.

Hey, y’all know what happened after the last time Alabama played in a title game when they used the “R” word.

It’s not just that we’ll be seeing last year’s national title game participants face off again.  It’s that the semis were totally lopsided affairs that basically served as evidence that they could have skipped the preliminaries altogether and gone straight to the main course.

Alabama was Alabama, the five-star python that let its opponent have an early chance to breath — Saban’s gotta have something to get his blood pressure up — only to spend the rest of the game slowly squeezing the life out of its prey.

Clemson’s win may have been even more impressive.  Shutting Urban Meyer out for the first time in his career was a big deal, one that will be forever in Corch’s mind.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a coaching staff use the month off to prepare better for an opponent than Dabo’s crew did last night.  (Technically, Ohio State had one more week to get ready than Clemson did, since the Buckeyes skipped the championship game route.)

In the end, both teams showed they’re college football’s 2016 cream of the crop. They should be playing for all the marbles.

All that being said, it’s still Alabama vs. Clemson.  Again.  If you think that’s kind of boring — and if you’re the kind of casual viewer that ESPN and its clients are trying to reel in with the CFP, you probably do — don’t worry.  The folks running college football are sensitive to rematch issues.  Stay away from the TV for a few days and you’ll get their knees jerking eventually.  Hopefully, the rest of us will get to enjoy a great national championship game.

 

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Today, in be careful what you wish for

All of a sudden, coaches backtracking on playoff expansion seems to be a thing.

Here’s Jimbo Fisher, getting all worried about the bowls in the CFP era:

“We better be really, really careful with all this playoff stuff,” Fisher said. “We’re all caught up in a championship. All we talk about on Tuesday [when rankings are released] is who is in the playoff rankings. Who cares? Go play and be the best team you can be.

“These games all mean something. I think they mean more than ever right now, and I hope we don’t push that away and destroy a great tradition in college football.”

Hey, he said the T-word!

Meanwhile, Dabo’s up and gone all old school on us.

Not that any of this matters one bit.  Money talks and will always do so.  And Jimbo and Dabo will keep cashing their paychecks, no matter what happens to the bowls.

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“For years, the NCAA longed to build a football playoff system for one simple reason: money.”

My, what a fine anti-playoff screed John U. Bacon delivers here.  (Although I can’t figure out what Mark Emmert has to do with the CFP.)  Actually, it’s more of an anti-college football management screed, when you get down to it.

First, they quadrupled the number of bowl games, from 11 to 41, which require 82 teams to fill them. Now just about any team with a winning record gets to go.

Then they tacked on a twelfth regular season game, when schools play “tomato cans” like McNeese State, Norfolk State and Bethune-Cookman, all just to grab another payday.

Then they piled on conference title games, too, increasing the total games a team can play from 11 to 14 — just two shy of an NFL season.

But we need a playoff now, they told us, to determine who’s best on the field. How? Instead of picking two teams based on polls, strength of schedule and computerized rankings, now they pick four teams — based on polls, strength of schedule and computerized rankings. Problem solved. Instead of the third-ranked team complaining that it got screwed, now the fifth-place team does all the whining. Another problem solved.

Remember, it’s all for us fans.  Just ask Bill Hancock.

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They don’t know what they’ve got ’til it’s gone… and maybe not even then.

There are times, believe it or not, when I wonder if I’m being too critical of people like Jim Delany and Mark Emmert when it comes to their business acumen.  I mean, nobody can be as blind to trends and economic developments as I make those guys out to be sometimes, right?

Then I’m reminded that in the end, we’re talking about camel herders.  And no matter how nicely you dress a camel herder, camels are what he knows best.

The NCAA Tournament followed a massive jump in ratings with a big tumble last season after switching the title game to cable TV.

The NCAA’s response: Give it time.

“You have to look at it over periods of time, not in one-year blips,” Mark Hollis, chair of the NCAA’s Division I men’s basketball committee, said Monday. “We’re in extremely good position as far as interest.”

The NCAA agreed to a 14-year deal with CBS and Turner in 2010, with the two companies essentially acting as one under the contract, combining on all aspects of the contract while alternating years on the Final Four.

The 2015 NCAA Tournament saw a huge surge in ratings for the game between Duke and Wisconsin, posting its highest average viewership in 22 years with 11.3 million viewers.

The Final Four was on TBS last season, marking the first time it aired on cable TV. Ratings for the entire tournament were down across CBS and the three Turner networks — TBS, Turner and truTV — and the title game drew a record-low rating, dropping 37 percent from 2015.

Gosh, who would have ever thought that pulling your signature event off the public airwaves and moving it to cable would have a negative impact on viewership?  Obviously not the humble herdsmen who took the best deal they could get.  Plus, it’s not all bad news.

“The difference in rating was somewhat predictable … the number of homes CBS is in than TBS is different,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships. “The thing that struck me was that both CBS and Turner were thrilled with the numbers. They sold out all of their ad inventory weeks before the tournament. From an NCAA perspective, as long as the games are broadly available, then we are accomplishing our goal for the fans. Whether it’s on CBS or TBS, that’s the key.”

Yes, indeedy, the networks are thrilled, so the NCAA is doing its best by the fans.  Gavitt, who used to be an associate conference commissioner, by the way, sounds like a man who thinks he’s quite accomplished at making lemonade from lemons.  He’s just careful to avoid drinking his product — which means he has something in common with the 37% who skipped the Final Four.

For those of you who think college football postseason expansion is going to work out swimmingly, despite mounting empirical evidence to suggest otherwise, what should give even you pause for reflection is the willingness of the movers and shakers to give away value like that in return for short-term gain (although using the phrase “short-term” in the context of a fourteen-year broadcast contract is a stretch).  I don’t know where you come from, but tossing more than a third of your viewers out in a year’s time doesn’t strike me as a way to build your brand.  Face it, especially when you’re talking about how March Madness markets itself to the casual sports fan, getting large numbers of those people out of the habit of tuning in makes it likely they won’t all be coming back.

Oh, but that’s basketball, you say.  That doesn’t count because it’s not college football.  Again, you miss the point.  Football is just taking its first tentative steps away from the regional appeal that is the sport’s greatest and most unique quality.  That’s a path college basketball tread years ago.  It’s the path the camel herders are familiar with; they just think they know better where to walk now.

What makes them dangerous isn’t that they aren’t the smartest people in the room.  It’s that they think they are the smartest people in the room.  It’s easy to do a lot of irreparable damage in that mindset.

Take, for example, the biggest jewel the SEC has in its possession.  Not the SEC Network, which isn’t even generating the most revenue of any of the conference arrangements.  It’s the SEC on CBS.  That’s the only national broadcasting deal any conference has.  Jim Delany chased down Rutgers and Maryland to add viewership outposts.  Larry Scott bitches and moans because he can’t land a deal on DirecTV for the Pac-12 Network.  Meanwhile the SEC shows up all over America every Saturday in the fall.

That’s awesome branding.  That’s why Verne Lundquist is a household figure.  That’s why somebody like Brad Nessler jumped at the first opportunity from a prestigious ESPN broadcast slot to take Lundquist’s place.  It’s part of what makes the SEC the SEC.  Yet it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Sankey and his presidents sell it to the highest bidder when the broadcast contracts come up for renewal, wherever that means those games are shown.

It’s all part of the trend to go national, a trend that’s accelerating with the new prominence of the CFP.  Don’t believe me on that?  Check out what’s already happening with the bowls.

It’s not that they’re trying to kill the golden goose.  It’s more like they’re trying to perform plastic surgery to improve the goose’s looks, even though they’ve never been to med school.  Hey, it could work!  Just ask Dan Gavitt.

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