I see Bill Hancock is moving his lips again. The CFP is facing some pretty formidable pressure.
The College Football Playoff is under pressure on two fronts to adjust future schedules for its semifinals and championship games, sources say, but the CFP is standing firm on its original dates.
On one of those fronts, top ESPN executives are lobbying CFP officials to move next season’s semifinals off of New Year’s Eve where it would compete with highly rated star-filled countdown shows on several networks…
Sources say that senior network executives as high up as ESPN President John Skipper are pushing for the change as a way to get better television ratings, but the CFP is unwilling to make such a move because it is committed to the original plan to hold tripleheader bowl games, including the semifinals, on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day…
Meanwhile, the CFP is facing pressure on another front. The NFL is considering expanding its playoffs and moving one of the new games to Monday night when it would compete directly with the CFP championship.
Sources say NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell initiated a series of high-level meetings with some of the CFP’s most influential commissioners, including the SEC’s Mike Slive and the Big Ten’s Jim Delany. Goodell approached the commissioners to discuss the potential impact an NFL playoff expansion would have on the CFP championship game.
The 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick make up the management council that oversees the College Football Playoff.
If the NFL ends up expanding the number of teams that make its postseason, the league would need two more TV windows to account for the new games. In separate meetings, Goodell told the college commissioners that any playoff expansion likely would put a wild-card game on Monday night, sources said.
The CFP’s 12-year contract with ESPN calls for the title game to be played on a Monday night, typically the second Monday in January.
Standing firm against ESPN and the NFL? Yeah, suuurrre.
Hancock said his office has voiced its opposition to putting an NFL playoff game against the CFP championship on Monday night.
“We picked Monday night because it was open and it was the best night for our game. We announced that in June 2012,” Hancock said. “We established that our game was going to be on Monday night for 12 years.”
Given what we’ve seen of Hancock’s bluffing ability from past pronouncements, I have no doubt that Mickey will take his line in the sand with all the seriousness it deserves. I doubt anyone’s quaking in his or her boots yet.
Adding fuel to the fire is that ESPN would be caught in the middle of any conflict between the CFP and NFL playoff expansion.
ESPN’s CFP contract mandates that the games are carried on ESPN — not ESPN2 or ESPNU, sources say. Plus, cable sources say that some of ESPN’s affiliate deals contain language that would prohibit the network from putting either the CFP championship or an NFL playoff game on ABC.
The NFL almost certainly would not allow one of its playoff games to move to ESPN2.
Still, the NFL could sell a Monday night playoff game to another network. A media industry source suggested that the NFL could look into packaging the new wild-card playoff games with its “Thursday Night Football” package beginning with the 2016 season. CBS last week signed a deal to keep that package for 2015.
Right. The WWL could just give up an incredibly valuable franchise without a fight.
That’s not all that’s at stake here for the WWL.
The CFP semifinals on New Year’s Day already proved their ability to attract viewers. The semifinals — played at the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual — each drew more than 28 million viewers. At the time, they were the two most-viewed programs in cable TV history.
The CFP championship game on Jan. 12 averaged 33.4 million viewers, becoming the first show in cable TV history to top 30 million viewers. Privately, ESPN insiders say they are prepared for double-digit drops in viewership if the semifinals remain on New Year’s Eve.
Get ready to hear about CFP’s new, new tradition, which is really about the only tradition college football cherishes these days – keeping the checks rolling in.