Category Archives: College Football

There’s gold in them thar bowl games.

You wonder how there can be so many bowl games, when so many have issues with attendance?  ESPN is here to help you with that knotty problem.

Such games arguably make more financial sense for ESPN than traditional non-profit bowl organizations because the currency of the realm for ESPN is eyeballs on screens and not so much butts in stadium seats.

“The ESPN bowl games, which account for the growth in bowl games, are essentially made-for-TV events,” Stanford economist Roger Noll told USA TODAY Sports.

Consider that Miami Beach Bowl in which Tulsa beat Central Michigan last year, 55-10.  A crowd of 15,262 was bad news for a small non-profit that relies on ticket sales and corporate sponsorships to make ends meet.

But attendance doesn’t matter as much to a deep-pocketed media network. ESPN wants live television programming during the holiday season to draw viewers, sell advertising and beat the competition, reinforcing the channel’s value with cable distributors and satellite providers.

The game drew an average of 795,000 TV viewers, trouncing other channels that day, on a Monday afternoon. Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network both had less than 280,000 viewers on average during the same time period, according to Nielsen. For comparison, ESPN boasted earlier this year that its Wednesday Night Baseball viewership had increased to an average of 636,000 in April, up 11% from a year earlier.

“Think of how well it would rate in a different time slot,” Overby said of the Miami Beach Bowl

Even though it was the least watched bowl game of the season, it was still a ratings win for ESPN. Live sports games are especially coveted by advertisers because viewers are considered more likely to watch their commercials live, unlike non-sports content that often is recorded with a DVR to skip the ads.

Not to say that Mickey doesn’t have a potential knotty problem of its own with which to wrestle.  Playoff expansion is bound to hurt the bowls, so where does the WWL line up when the day comes that the CFP moves to eight… sixteen…?

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Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, man.”

Gathering intel on the hush-hush at the College Football Awards sounds like fun.

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Filed under College Football, Strategery And Mechanics

What do fewer eyeballs on college football mean?

Richard Deitsch takes a look at broadcast numbers for the just concluded 2017 regular season and reports a decline.

Per Karp, here’s where the networks finished for average viewership for this year’s CFB regular season:

CBS: 4.951 million viewers, down 10% from 5.489 million in 2016.

ABC: 4.203 million, down 18% from 5.097 million.

Fox: 3.625 million, up 23% from 2.951 million.

NBC: 2.742, down 3% from 2.814 million.

ESPN: 2.155 million, down 6% from 2.300 million.

FS1: 819,000, up 4% from 743,000.

Some interesting thoughts from Karp in the piece: CBS’s SEC package was the most-viewed individual package for the ninth straight CFB season, but this year’s average was its lowest in well over a decade. ABC’s Saturday Night Football was down 4% from 2016, even though its window remained college football’s most-viewed window with 5.7 million viewers. ESPN was easily the most-viewed cable net for CFB—it has the most games so that lowers its average—but was down with fewer Big Ten matchups. FS1’s average was its best since the network launched but below what the cable net FX averaged for its games in ’11 (1.01 million viewers).

Let’s cut to the chase here:  is it panic time?  Well, far be it from me to speak for the geniuses who run the sport, but Karp seems to suggest that while the numbers are an indication of a problem, it’s not an existential one.

“I don’t think that meant less interest in college football,” Karp said. “If anything, I’d say the interest was higher this season compared to some prior years. If you look at total minutes viewed for college football, it had to be some sort of record this year. There were some really exciting matchups and Fox Sports really stepped up their game this year—the company’s first with the Big Ten regular season lineup. You could often find three college football windows on the Fox broadcast window this season, which never happened before. With a healthy dose on FS1, they are making themselves a destination for college football now. But this is a zero-sum game, particularly as it relates to the Power Five conferences. Fox Sports’ gain was ABC/ESPN’s loss, as the new Big Ten contracts meant Bristol had fewer options with regard to top teams. While Saturday Night Football on ABC still got some bigger matchups, there were just fewer options for Saturday afternoon windows. As good as a team like UCF was this season, matchups from the AAC just aren’t moving the needle.

“For CBS, the SEC was just too top heavy this season,” Karp continued. “They had some bad matchups on the network. Alabama is still a draw, but there is a limit on the number of Alabama games the network can air, and Georgia-Florida or any Tennessee game just aren’t what they used to be. For NBC, Notre Dame fans just didn’t watch early in the season, expecting some sort of repeat of 2016’s debacle. But NBC saw improvement over the last three game telecasts. I’d say college football fans were winners this season. There are options galore on TV, and that doesn’t even include improvement on the streaming front. Networks like CBS and ESPN need to see improvement from some big-time programs like Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Nebraska and maybe even an Oregon. That would increase the availability of bigger games for those networks.”

The SEC in particular hasn’t been doing CBS any favors of late.  When it’s mid-November and the schedule lines up to present Kentucky at Georgia as your game of the week, you haven’t been trying that hard to make sure your customers are getting prime matchups.  Sure, having more programs with a pulse certainly helps, but anybody looking at that week before the start of the season could have sensed that the conference wasn’t putting its best face forward then.

It’s not just CBS, of course.  Overall, this season has struck me on more than one occasion as one in which the networks loaded up primo games — as in plural — in the same time slot.  Some of that is no doubt due to schools and conferences trying to accommodate their fan bases who actually attend the games (quaint, I know), but you can’t help but question if there are other factors in play.

Aside from the top-heavy nature of this season’s landscape, as well as a certain amount of inept scheduling, I wonder if there are any other issues worth considering.  Those of you who swing right politically would no doubt cite ESPN’s social media missteps this season as a factor, although there’s a certain amount of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face involved with that.

I, though, think about whether we’re witnessing a certain canary in the coal mine doing a little chirping.  Deitsch prefaces his piece with the observation that “College football is a tougher game to analyze for ratings experts given a number of factors including the innate regionalism of the sport…” and it seems fair to ask if ESPN’s relentless promotion of the college football playoffs is already having an unintended, yet inevitable, impact on fans’ interest in the regular season.

Left to consider, then, are what the broadcast numbers for the playoffs look like and whether the conferences and the networks can get their collective acts together next season.  Maybe some better conclusions can be drawn then.

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Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain

Loss of institutional control

While most of us fans are fascinated by the nuts and bolts of who Tennessee winds up hiring to replace Booch (more on that shortly), that doesn’t seem to be where the heads of some of those who administrate college sports are at.  And maybe that’s something deserving of a little more attention from the great unwashed.

Here are a couple of examples of what I’m referring to.  First, a quote from Penn State’s AD:

Penn State AD Sandy Barbour on the impact of the Tennessee coaching search on the future: “Our stakeholders were watching that. They go, ‘Next time Sandy makes a decision we don’t like, we’ll go on social media and get that changed.’ We all [as athletic directors] have to know that.

For some reason (I know, I know), Mark Emmert felt the need to weigh in, as well.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said when a school isn’t in alignment with all of its key leaders on an important personnel hire, “Then you get Tennessee.”

Yes, the president of the NCAA critiquing another organization’s dysfunctional behavior is about as pot calling the kettle black as it gets, but don’t let that distract you from the underlying reality that these folks are troubled by what happened to John Currie as he botched the coaching search.  Here’s another example:

Uh, dude… what’s happening in Yemen is a tragedy.  Currie being removed because he misread his fan base is more in the shit happens category.  Speaking of which, I suspect what really bothers the likes of these folks isn’t so much the fan reaction in and of itself, but the way somebody like Phil Fulmer was able to manipulate that reaction into staging a palace coup of a sitting athletic director.  Weasels, weasels everywhere and uneasy lies the crown, peeps.

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Filed under College Football, Social Media Is The Devil's Playground

Tonight, in life comes at you fast

How about this development?

Wild.

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Filed under College Football

I have seen the future of college football…

… and it’s — guess what? — gonna be more expensive.

“Ten to 15 years ago, it was about how many seats can we have to say we have the largest in the SEC,” Hill said. “We probably need to be looking to the NFL. They have smaller stadiums than we have in the SEC.”

Meanwhile, Alabama in 2010 increased its capacity by 9,000, adding 72 skyboxes, and Auburn is in the process of turning its press box into a club area. The school already plopped down $14 million to install what it calls the biggest video board in college football, 190 feet long.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State have combined to spend more than $100 million in renovations, recently adding a combined 12,000 seats, new video boards, club levels and the ever-popular field-level premium seating.

Missouri is spending $98 million on a new south end zone complex that will include 16 new suites, a 750-person field-level club and a 1,254-seat indoor club area. Tennessee announced plans for a $340 million project at Neyland Stadium to, for one, renovate restrooms and concessions and incorporate more premium seating.

Arkansas is in the process of completing $160 million in renovations to Razorback Stadium with “seating types and amenities that fit what the fans are asking for,” the school said in a release this spring. Translation: roomy premium areas with alcohol available.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium underwent a $110 million renovation in 2015 that actually decreased the capacity of the place by 1,000 seats. Why? Because renovations included replacing general seating with club levels and suites.

This is the future.

“If you were to build a stadium now from scratch, there would be fewer seats and more levels of premium club seating,” said Thompson, the Ole Miss administrator and research head for the SEC game day experience working group.

“Bigger seats. Less people. It’s making that experience way more unique and way more memorable with the amenities we talk about. You’re trying to create unique experiences people will remember.”

Waters, the bowl association executive, believes Atlanta’s new $1.6 billion Mercedes Benz Stadium is the standard bearer of stadiums. The arena provides roomy general seats, large premium areas and discounted concession prices.

“They’ve figured it out,” Waters said. “It used to be, ‘Get the fans in and squeeze every (dime) out of them.’ They’ve gotten where it’s better to get people in the house rather than sell a $10 Pepsi.”

The irony there is that it’s booze that’s driving the train.

You can read the rest of the article if you like, although it’s a thoroughly depressing run through of cluelessness…

“Something did surprise me in there,” he said. “People aren’t concerned about the length of games. People are concerned about the intervals and stoppages in the game — TV timeouts, instant replay. Those are the things that bothered them more than the length of the game.”

and stubborn resistance to the same things fans have been bitching about for years about which the schools have no intention of doing anything.

Home opponents are also an issue, Guyote said.

LSU’s marquee non-conference games since 2010 have mostly kicked off at a neutral site. Excluding 2017, in the previous eight seasons, LSU has hosted 22 nonconference opponents. Two of them were from the Power 5 conferences in football: West Virginia in 2010 and Washington in 2012. LSU has won those 22 games by an average of about 32 points — lopsided affairs that keep fans home or chase them out of Tiger Stadium in the third quarter.

“The home slate has been awful,” Guyote said. “I know they get big payouts to play (neutral-site games) in Houston and Dallas. Well, I don’t live in Houston and Dallas to catch the good out-of-conference games.”

Bottom line:  welcome to the corporatization of college football, sports fans.  You’ll love it!

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

We gave you the best years of our lives.

This may have been the saddest thing I watched yesterday.

“Where is the loyalty?”  The romantic’s creed.

This is what gets me the most about college football.  The folks getting paid count on the passion of folks like that fellow.  They milk it while relentlessly pushing the envelope with conference realignment, postseason expansion and conference networks with all the scheduling compromises those bring because it allows them to monetize the romance.  Then they all share the wealth.  As far as what this gentleman is feeling goes, at best he’ll get lip service from those assholes, at least as long as he’s got his checkbook out.

People like him deserve respect and appreciation, but giving him what he’s earned by his love of the game would cost money and that ain’t in the cards.  That’s why he got shown the door.  (It’s to his credit he didn’t take a swing at the jerk who pushed him out of the room.)  The rank cynicism doesn’t make me angry, but it’s impossible not to feel embittered by it.

That’s something I hope some of you realize when we debate amateurism here.  While I sometimes grow frustrated with certain commenters’ unwillingness to grasp basic economic realities, I never fail to recognize that at the heart of it lies that same sense of romance that drew us to the game and made us love it in the first place.  I may argue with you about it, but I don’t disrespect where you’re coming from.

As for those questions some of you ask me about how I can feel any of the same emotions about college football when this kind of crap drives me up the wall, I have an answer for you.  I’m a human being, and one thing human beings do when they’re faced with difficult contradictions is to compartmentalize.  Somehow, I manage to separate my feelings for the sport’s financial side from the enjoyment I still get from the purity of the social experience when I go to games, and, of course, the on-field play itself.  I’m still good as long as I can do that.

The depressing part is that every year I find maintaining separation harder and harder to manage.  At some point, those walls are gonna come tumbling down and that will be the end of it for me.  It’s a bittersweet ride, but I’ll stay on board as long as I can.  I hope that FSU fan can do the same.

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Filed under College Football