College Football played the playoff games on New Year’s Eve. As predicted, ratings for the marquee event took a dramatic tumble. Last year’s semifinals – Rose (15.5) and Sugar (15.3) – both topped the 15.0 mark. Neither semifinal this year – Cotton (9.9) and Orange (9.7) – cleared 10.0.
But, hey. They crushed whatever mediocre games were on New Year’s Eve last year.
"3 New Year's Eve bowl games on ESPN (Peach, Orange, Cotton) up 285% from ESPN's New Year's tripleheader last year — Josh Krulewitz (@jksports) January 1, 2016"
There were extenuating circumstances. 2014 offered more spice. Saban vs. Meyer redux. Jameis. Oregon’s offense and Mariota getting a true test. 2015, by comparison, was bland. Neither game was competitive.
Spreading the wealth to different bowl games may have had an impact. The Orange Bowl has not been nationally relevant since the early 2000s. The Cotton Bowl was not part of the BCS and hasn’t been relevant since the early 1990s. Neither is played in its original venue. The ambience felt like watching two interchangeable bowl games on a Thursday.
However, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that playing the games on New Year’s Eve, with conflicting traditions and a sharply reduced potential viewing audience, was a dumb idea. College Football is not the NFL in terms of national pull. 2015 is not an opportune time to establish new televised media “traditions.”