The first year of the College Football Playoff was a remarkable success.  Interest in the sport has never been higher.  The semifinals and final set the record as the three most watched programs in the history of cable television.  New Year’s Day finally meant something again. In its current four team format, the way that it played out this year was pretty much perfect.

Of course, as we talked about at length earlier this month, only college football could drop the ball on the perfect college football playoff.  For the next two years, and two out of every three years under the current parameters of the CFP contract, the semifinals will take place on New Year’s Eve instead of New Year’s Day.  How anyone with any decision-making responsibility thought playoff games on New Year’s Eve was a good idea escapes me at the moment, but this is also the sport that waited until 2014 before it finally decided that a playoff might not be the horrible evil it was once thought to be.

The rest of the national media slowly caught on to this facepalm-inducing scheduling fiasco and now it seems someone in power wants to fix it.  SBJ  reports that ESPN is lobbying the College Football Playoff to move the semifinal games from December 31st, 2015 to January 2nd, 2016.  And surprise, surprise, college football doesn’t want to do it.  Why?  Because it’s something that’s logical.

The ignorance on display here is preposterous.  But that’s what happens when special interests have control over your product.  The powers that be should have never agreed to the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl being locked into their New Year’s Day timeslots and putting those games ahead of the best interests of the playoff and the sport as a whole.  But let’s be real, nobody is surprised that they did.

The semifinals should be played on New Year’s Day, but what ESPN is offering here seems to be the next best thing and a win-win for all parties.  In the scenario that Bristol is proposing, the powerful Rose and Sugar Bowls get to keep their January 1 dates.  And instead of cannibalizing their audience on New Year’s Eve where ratings will plummet for the CFP semifinals, ESPN is offering the date of January 2nd for the showcase games.  Not only is that better because it allows the New Year’s Six to crescendo to the most important games by placing them after the others, but it also puts the games on a Saturday when nothing else will be happening in the world.  We’re all going to be either sleeping all day on January 2nd or staring blankly at HGTV marathons or something as it currently stands.

It’s easy to see why ESPN wants to make this change.  Half of ESPN’s audience won’t be out celebrating New Year’s Eve instead of watching football like they would be with the current schedule.  It’s impossible to predict, but ESPN could be looking at maybe as much as a 50% drop in viewership from the 28 million that watched the CFP semifinals this year if the semifinals go ahead on New Year’s Eve.  This year, the Orange Bowl scored 8.9 million viewers on December 31st.  That’s a great number for New Year’s Eve, but it was also down 22% from last year’s Orange Bowl and hit a multi-year low for the game.  That’s the television abyss ESPN is staring at right now.

If the semifinals are played on December 31st, it would be a disaster for the College Football Playoff.  At the moment, the only entity who doesn’t realize that is the College Football Playoff itself.

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