Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl - Mississippi State v Wake Forest

Bowl viewership drops to record BcS lows


Thursday the Football Bowl Association sent out a mass media email with the following subject line: “What a Bowl Season!”

Based on the number coming out, the FBA could’ve done without the exclamation point.  Or the entire electronic missive, for that matter.

We’ve already touched on the fact that Alabama-LSU rematch was one of the lowest-rated title games of the BcS era, down roughly 14 percent from the Auburn-Oregon game the year before.  According to the Birmingham News, that was a common theme woven throughout the entire 2011-2012 bowl schedule.

After crunching the Nielsen numbers, the News has determined that bowl viewership was off eight percent from the ratings posted in 2010-2011, and is down 37 percent from the first year of the BcS in 1998.  That year, there were 13 fewer bowl games than the 35 contested following the 2011 season.

Of the 34 bowls mentioned by the paper — the ratings for the TicketCity Bowl featuring Penn State and Houston weren’t listed — 21 of them saw their ratings drop from the year before, with 18 of those seeing a double-digit decline from 2010-2011.  The only BcS bowl game to realize an increase in viewership from last year was the Fiesta Bowl’s Oklahoma State-Stanford matchup, which was up a 56 percent.  That’s an impressive jump until you factor in the previous year’s game — Oklahoma-UConn.

All told, viewership of BcS bowls — title game, Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta — dropped eight percent from last year.

Of course, as noted by the News, there are a couple of mitigating factors.  One, the vast majority of the games are shown on ESPN, which is unavailable in approximately 15 million homes.  And, two, this year’s “traditional” New Year’s Day bowls were contested  Jan. 2 due to the first day of the year falling on a Sunday.  That, though, doesn’t explain the alarming drop in interest.

Yesterday, NCAA president Mark Emmert appeared to throw his support behind a “Plus-One” model for Div. 1-A football, which is nothing more than a four-team playoff wrapped in language palatable to the NCAA.  And, while he was speaking about an eight- or 16-team playoff, his words could very well have served as an indictment of the bowl system as it’s currently structured.

“The notion of having a Final Four approach is probably a sound one,” Emmert said. “Moving toward a 16-team playoff is highly problematic because I think that’s too much to ask a young man’s body to do. It’s too many games, it intrudes into the school year and, of course, it would probably necessitate a complete end to the bowl system that so many people like now.”

Too many games?  Absolutely, there are way too many bowl games rewarding mediocrity.  A system so many people like?  Combine the drop in viewership with bowl attendance that has dipped below an average of 51,000 for the first time since 1979, and the number of people liking the bowl system is dwindling by the year.

Surely it’s merely a coincidence that a drop in viewership/attendance is running parallel with a newfound interest in a four-team playoff among the men who control the game’s purse strings, right?

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.

Penn State fires offensive coordinator John Donovan

Penn State football practice, Sept 9, 2015

Penn State has fired offensive coordinator John Donovan, the program announced Sunday.

“I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in the last five years,” head coach James Franklin said in a statement. “I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

Donovan originally hooked up with Franklin when the two were at Maryland, then coordinated his offenses at Vanderbilt and later Penn State.

Despite playing with what many project to be a future first-round pick in quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ranked 101st nationally in scoring, 108th in total offense and 80th in yards per play.

Penn State dropped its final three games of the regular season and averaged only 14.6 points in its five losses.

Purdue retains head coach Darrell Hazell, fires both coordinators

Markell Jones
AP Photo

It’s never a good thing when a head coach has to fire both of his coordinators on the same day. Of course, it’s never a good thing to be 6-30, either.

Both are realities at Purdue, as the Boilers announced Sunday head coach Darrell Hazell will return for a fourth season in 2016, but offensive coordinator John Shoop, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and defensive line coach Rubin Carter will not.

“I appreciate the efforts of each of those guys over the last three years,” Hazell said in a statement. “They are quality men who are well respected by their players and their peers, and I am disappointed that things didn’t work out better. But I believe that in order to turn around this program, we need to make some significant changes and move in a different direction at those positions.”

Purdue, 2-10 in 2015, ranked 115th nationally in yards per play and 112th in yards per play allowed.

Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

Associated Press

Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.