No matter how much the TV ratings for the College Football Playoff took a hit this season by being locked into being played on New Years Eve, the Sugar Bowl is not likely to move from its primetime slot on New Years Day even if it means helping the playoff’s TV ratings in the future. The SEC and Big 12 do not want to move the Sugar Bowl out of its traditional spot, and they will fight to keep it there.
“We’ve got an important and meaningful relationship with the Sugar Bowl over time that the Big 12 and SEC worked to establish a contract and an agreement that that’s when that game would be played,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. “That is important to us. I think it’s clearly important to our fans. It was important to the Oklahoma State and Big 12 fans who were in New Orleans. We’re going to protect that tradition.”
Ahh yes, there is that word again. “Tradition.” It is the tradition of playing the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl on January 1 that for whatever reason left the College Football Playoff to play its semifinal game son New Years Eve this season, which resulted in a significant drop in the TV ratings compared to last year’s semifinal games, which were played in the Rose and Sugar Bowls. Because the big Ten and Pac-12 refused to move the Rose Bowl to accommodate the playoff games, and the Big 12 and SEC stood firm with the Sugar Bowl, the playoff games in the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl were scheduled for New Years Eve (despite January 2 being wide open).
“We created an opportunity, when you look at ratings on New Year’s Eve, before the playoff, where there are a lot more people involved in watching games that evening than there were before,”Sankey explained. “Now the comparative to the previous year is down, and that happened in other games. Big point differentials. That’s why I think there’s a learning experience to be had, but there’s a course set, to be clear. I don’t want to equivocate that the focus has been on playing those games on New Year’s Eve.”
In 2016, the playoff games will once again be locked into December 31, but those games should see at least a mild increase in TV ratings as the game swill be played on a Saturday, as opposed to a weekday when two-thirds of the country is still working while the first semifinal game is being played.