College football’s major bowl games were awful this year. That’s just bad luck, but the poor scheduling and overload was not. Here’s the problems and how to fix them…
*The most obvious problem that’s drawing attention in the mainstream media is the decision to show the two Playoff bowl games (Orange & Cotton) on New Year’s Eve rather than New Year’s Day. Between holiday parties and a lot of people having to work when the Orange Bowl kicked off at 4 PM ET, ratings were down 36 percent from last year, when the two Playoff games (Rose & Sugar) went on January 1.
*There is one too many bowl games classified as “major”. Did anyone really feel that Ole Miss and Oklahoma State, who met in the Sugar Bowl, to have earned on a spot on what should be college football’s biggest stage? Conversely, how did the Peach Bowl angle its way to getting “major” status? The question is rhetorical—I know they paid a boatload of money to somebody, but there’s no need for six major bowls.
*On a more minor note, why did the Orange Bowl have to kick off in the late afternoon? Aren’t we all used to seeing this game in prime-time? The Cotton should have kicked off in the 4 PM ET slot.
*And on a similar note, starting the Fiesta Bowl at 11 AM ET local time for the sake of a 1 PM ET kickoff was ridiculous and not fair to the fans in Arizona. The Fiesta and Sugar should have flipped time slots, with the latter going early and the former capping the night.
So our reform plan begins with junking the Peach Bowl and establishing that these five games—Fiesta, Sugar, Rose, Orange & Cotton—are the showcase events of college football, and the two Playoff games are included within these five.
Then let’s use a 1-3-1 setup—one game in prime-time on December 31, three games on January 1 and one more prime-time game on January 2. The Playoff games will normally be the final two games—the prime-time ones on January 1-2, and the New Year’s Eve game can basically be the least attractive TV matchup—the Committee can make sure that bowls take their turn in getting the December 31 slot.
The Rose Bowl is the cause of the current problem and where we have to make some adjustments off this basic plan. The Tournament of Rose parade on New Year’s morning has led the Rose to be insistent on keeping its game in the 5 PM ET TV window. I don’t get into the Parade, but I understand a lot of people do, so I think we should honor this spot. That requires two key adjustments…
*When the Rose is line for a Playoff semifinal, the January 1 prime-time game becomes a non-Playoff game and the other Playoff game stays on January 2.
*The Rose also has to make a concession—because they’re never going to get stuck with the December 31 slot, they have to eat it when it comes to the Playoff rotation. The current setup of six games has the benefit of allowing for an even rotation—each bowl host the Playoffs once every three years. With five games, there will be an odd rotation. The Rose should get the worst of this in exchange for avoiding December 31.
If this system had been in place this year, the potential bowl matchups might have looked like this, assuming we’d take Houston and Florida State—the Peach Bowl participants who truly earned major bowl spots—and mixing them into other bowls, while taking Ole Miss and Oklahoma State and throwing them out…
Sugar: Florida State-Notre Dame
Rose: Ohio State-Stanford
Orange: Clemson-Oklahoma (Playoff)
Cotton: Alabama-Michigan State (Playoff)
College football diehards could check out Houston-Iowa at their New Year’s Eve parties. Doesn’t that January 1 tripleheader look appetizing? All of the bowls gradually build up to the two Playoff games?
We’re coming off the worst run of major bowl games I can recall off the top of my head, blowouts or at least decisive wins in all six games. We can’t control that, but we can narrow the field and use better scheduling to make for a better fan experience all the way around.