I had actually meant to write this earlier but this is what in the business call an “evergreen” story. That is to say, it wasn’t necessarily time-sensitive as in breaking news, and therefore could be pushed off for a few days.
But, come to think of it now, it is time-sensitive because timing is what this is all about.
And once again, college football’s timing is off.
In creating what turned out to be the successful, well-received and, by most accounts, highly popular College Football Playoff, organizers were touting how they wanted to own New Year’s Day. The national semifinals would be on that day and New Year’s Day would become college football’s version of basketball’s Final Four Saturday, one of the most anticipated days on the sports calendar.
So what are we looking at when this college football season ends?
The national semifinals on New Year’s Eve.
Why? Because this season those semifinals will be played in the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl, respectively, and CFP officials wanted to preserve the integrity of New Year’s Day bowl games – such as the Rose Bowl – and having the national semifinals on that day would have conflicted with that.
That’s an extraordinarily short-sighted view.
Had organizers thought it out a little more, it could have worked. Instead of scheduling the national semifinals for 4 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. – as they will be on New Year’s Eve – they could have made one semifinal at 1 p.m., the Rose Bowl game in its traditional 5 p.m. start time and the other national semifinal at 8 p.m.
You talk about college football owning the day. Wow.
In fact, ESPN tried to go one better. According to Sports Illustrated, ESPN asked college football playoff officials about moving the national semifinals to the day after New Year’s, Jan. 2. Then you would have your traditional New Year’s Eve bowl games on Thursday, Dec. 31, your traditional New Year’s Day bowl games on Friday, Jan. 1, and the national semifinals on Saturday, Jan. 2. Even better, there are no NFL games schedule for Saturday the 2nd – the league concludes its regular season on Sunday the 3rd.
You talk about college football owning the weekend. Wow.
Instead, CFP officials declined.
“We approached the CFP with a one-year change—and really a one-year-only opportunity—because of a complete quirk in the calendar,” Ilan Ben-Hanan, ESPN’s vice president of programming and acquisitions, told SI. “With Saturday being a traditional college football day, we thought it could be a great one-time opportunity to have the semifinals fall on Jan. 2. You would have the Rose and Sugar and Fiesta [bowls] on Jan. 1 as it already is scheduled and then you would move what is the current New Year’s Eve schedule to Jan. 2. We approached the CFP with [the idea], the CFP vetted it and they decided to stick with the regularly scheduled calendar, which is fine, and we move forward.”
Uh, no, it’s not fine.
I don’t know about you, but my New Year’s Eve has never really included sitting down to watch seven or eight hours of college football. It wasn’t that way when I was 21, and it isn’t that way now that I’m 51. Whether I’m out on the town or at a house party, my television viewing settles around the ball dropping in Times Square, not the ball dropping at the Orange Bowl.
Furthermore, and more to the point about timing, what happens in a year when the sun, the moon and the stars collide? What happens when it’s a year for the Cotton and Orange to host the college football semifinals, and New Year’s Eve falls on a Sunday in the same season when it’s the final week of the NFL regular season or, worse, Wildcard Weekend?
No, if this thing is going to work – and every indication from last year’s playoff suggests it will – college football needs to lock it in stone and start creating tradition and appointment viewing around it.
Put it this way. I don’t ever remember NBC promoting “Must-See Thursday” with the caveat that Cheers would be on Tuesday.