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?