The College Football Playoff may finally be coming to their senses. After a smashing success in Year One of the playoff, the CFP moved its semifinal games onto New Year’s Eve instead of New Year’s Day. The result was a precipitous drop in ratings as the games were either played too early (4 PM on the east coast and 1 PM on the west coast while many people were still at work) or too late (8 PM on the east coast when many people are already starting their NYE festivities). A 36% drop in ratings and 39% drop in viewership to be exact.
Everyone could have easily predicted the disaster that semifinal games on New Year’s Eve would produce and the cratering ratings that would occur. We were writing about this very topic all the way back in January 2015 right after the first year of the playoff when we looked ahead to the following year’s schedule. Not only did it have a negative effect on the semifinals themselves, but on the anti-climactic New Year’s Day games that followed.
For the first time, after months of stubbornly sticking to their point of revolutionizing the New Year’s Eve experience and making it all about college football, the powers that be are coming to grips with the fact that maybe it’s not such a good idea after all. CFP exec Bill Hancock admitted that there has been conversation about moving the semifinals off New Year’s Eve. Thank God.
Bill Hancock said the College Football Playoff is considering moving the playoff semifinals from New Year’s Eve.
Hancock, the CFP’s executive director, said the move could happen no sooner than after the 2018 regular season.
“We’re exploring if there’s a better [date] for the semifinals,” Hancock said. “We’re thinking about if New Year’s Eve is the way to go.”
The fact that Hancock publicly addressed the possibility of moving the games off New Year’s Eve indicates it is “likely to happen,” a source said.
“There’s still work to be done,” a source said. “However, I doubt Bill would have said something if he didn’t think he could get the room [of the commissioners] there.”
Of course, this is a complete 180 from where Hancock and CFP officials have been publicly ever since the advent of the New Year’s Six and playing some of the most important college football games of the year on New Year’s Eve. Hancock boldly said last July that the playoff games would “change the paradigm of New Year’s Eve.”
“We really do think we’re going to change the paradigm of New Year’s Eve,” said Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff.
[LOUD PRICE IS RIGHT FAIL HORN]
That quote, one that makes you do a double take no matter how many times you read it, may go down as one of the most infamous in the history of the sports media. The amazing thing is that even in the immediate aftermath of the scheduling debacle and seeing how much worse it was for everyone involved, Hancock still doubled down on sticking with New Year’s Eve.
“This event will thrive on New Year’s Eve and we did know about New Year’s Eve almost from the start.”
So what changed in the last six months? What changed since Hancock said the games were “absolutely locked” into NYE back in January? Hopefully someone finally talked some sense into Hancock, playoff execs, and bowl execs to find something that works better for the sport as a whole. Maybe the accountants finally got back to them with how much money the playoff lost from Year 1 to Year 2 – we all know the powers that be in college football and any sport will move wherever the almighty dollar tells them to go.
This is one of the most easily correctable mistakes in sports and one that should have never been made in the first place. In truth, the entire concept of the New Year’s Six is already falling apart in just two years because of the CFP bowing to the “tradition” of the Orange Bowl being played at night and giving them a primetime slot on December 30th. With that move, the CFP has proven it’s already making it up as it goes along and able to bend and break for special interests. And if that’s the case, then hopefully it can also bend and break for the special interests of millions of fans who are screaming at them to give up the pipedream of changing the New Year’s Eve paradigm.
The playoff gets something of a break this year with New Year’s Eve falling on a Saturday. Ratings for Game 1 should bounce back up, but Game 2 should still suffer a little bit from people socializing instead of staying home by themselves and watching football. Next year, the semifinals return to New Year’s Day at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. The first year where the CFP might look at altering the schedule is 2018-2019 when the semifinals are currently scheduled for Monday, December 31 at the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl.
The CFP has over two years to figure it out and get it right, which of course probably means they’ll schedule the semifinals for Christmas Eve.