In the face of intense pressure, the College Football Playoff has officially — and finally — blinked.
By most accounts, including the most important metric, television ratings, the New Year’s Eve slot for the College Football Playoff semifinal games was an abject failure. Despite the ratings bath and the calls from most corners to move the semifinals off New Year’s Eve, the powers that be had (stubbornly) remained steadfast in creating a new “holiday tradition.”
In March, however, the CFP at least somewhat acknowledged an issue, announcing that the start times for the 2016 playoff semifinals, on New Year’s Eve yet again, would be pushed back an hour from the year before. The thaw continued in April, with executive director Bill Hancock stating that the CFP “will continue to review this matter.” A couple of weeks ago, Hancock heavily intimated that it would be when, not if the semifinals would be moved off the last day of the year.
Thursday, that (mostly) came to fruition as the CFP announced that all future playoff games through the 2025 season (last year of the current 12-year contract) will be played either on a Saturday or a holiday. That doesn’t mean that New Year’s Eve is completely off the table, though.
One, the two semifinal games scheduled for New Year’s Eve following the 2016 season will go off as planned as it’s too late in the process to move them off that date; plus, Dec. 31 falls on a Saturday this year and would’ve been played on New Year’s Eve anyway under this new way of doing playoff business. Secondly, the semifinal games for the 2021 and 2022 seasons will still be played on Dec. 31. The games for the 2022 season will be played on a Saturday, on a Friday in 2021.
There are significant changes to the rotation, however, as the semifinal games that had been scheduled to be played on New Year’s Eve following the 2018, 2019, 2024 and 2025 seasons will now be played on Saturday, Dec. 29; Saturday, Dec. 28; Saturday, December 28; and Saturday, Dec. 27, respectively.
In the end, it was the right call for the sport and, more importantly, the fans.
“We had healthy discussions with a lot of people who love college football and we concluded that making these changes would be the right thing to do for our fans.” said Hancock in a statement.
“We tried to do something special with New Year’s Eve, even when it fell on a weekday. But after studying this to see if it worked, we think we can do better. These adjustments will allow more people to experience the games they enjoy so much. For these four years, our previous call is reversed.”
Below is how the revamped College Football Playoff rotation will look moving forward: