Among the many flimsy arguments in support of college football’s traditional failure to pay college football players is the notion that they get excellent exposure via the platform the NCAA provides. But thanks to the same folks who would argue with a straight face that players shouldn’t get paid because they’re not adults (there’s a perfect irony that comes from a guy named “Oliver” denying a bunch of kids “more” — or as the case may be “any”), the exposure isn’t always as excellent as it should be.
Last year, after the brand-new final four tournament was televised by ESPN and not its sister company of ABC, I argued that the players should be upset that the NCAA didn’t insist that the games be broadcast on the network that would have generated a much larger audience. That same argument applies even more forcefully to the stupid-in-foresight-even-stupider-in-hindsight decision to move the semifinals games to New Year’s Eve.
Via John Ourand of SportsBusiness Journal, the Cotton Bowl drew a 9.9 rating and the Orange Bowl generated a 9.7. That’s way down from last year’s 15.3 and 15.5 for semifinal games played on New Year’s Day.
As Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports has been consistently explaining it, the NCAA picked New Year’s Eve to prevent the Rose Bowl from having to move from its 5:00 p.m. ET spot on January 1. And so the supposed “new tradition” of parking two of the biggest college football games of the year on New Year’s Eve will exist only until those years when the Rose Bowl has one of the semifinal games.
Which means that, in those years, the kids who are sacrificing their bodies and otherwise exerting effort for room, board, tuition, and snacks will have to deal with the fact that the folks who run the NCAA don’t care about maximizing the audience.
While the NFL is equally greedy, the NFL understands the year-in, year-out value of having the biggest possible audiences for as many games as possible. That’s why Sunday Night Football on NBC is and always will be bigger than Monday Night Football on ESPN, and it’s why the NFL has moved half of its previously-sluggish Thursday Night Football series to broadcast TV.
Despite the many technological advancements of the last 20 years, millions still get their TV from the free airwaves captured by rabbit ears. And with live football being one of the few things that can prompt millions to congregate on a given channel at the same time, putting the biggest games on broadcast TV is in the best interests of everyone involved — especially the persons whom everyone is tuning in to watch.