Dallas — Two senior ESPN executives were awaiting the 7:15 flight from New Orleans to Atlanta the morning after the Sugar Bowl. One had been checking her phone every 30 seconds for the overnight ratings. She offered a guess as to what the numbers for the inaugural College Football Playoff would be. Another exec offered his guess, a slightly higher one. Both undershot.
The Sugar Bowl pairing of Ohio State and Alabama drew 28.3 million viewers; the Rose Bowl match of Oregon and Florida State drew 28.2. They were the highest-rated programs in cable TV history. The two semifinals drew bigger audiences than any of the past four BCS title games.
Yes, I think it’s safe to say we as a nation were ready for a playoff.
Would the ratings have been as massive if, say, Baylor had played Bama and TCU had faced Oregon? We’ll never know, but this much is clear: When you attach the word “playoff” to anything, you heighten the stakes, the tension and the interest. (Ask the NBA and the NHL.)
That we Americans love our brand of football has long been a matter of record; that we might love it even more when there’s a tournament format — as opposed to one championship game and a string of meaningless bowls — shouldn’t really have surprised anyone. Nor should it come as a shock that there’s talk that the playoff could expand any day.
In a Reuters story Friday, Steve Ginsburg quotes Randy Grant, a college professor of economics, as saying: “I could very much see them going to eight next year.”
No, that wouldn’t make TCU and Baylor feel very good, but them’s the breaks. For TV, there’s no success like excess. (How many “Law & Order” spinoffs were there? How many versions of “CSI”?) Me, I think four’s a pretty good number — were our lives lacking because Mississippi State didn’t make the tournament? — but television money will drive this bus. And, only two games in, the destination for the newborn CFP appears to be bigger if not better.
From myajc: A national championship that actually feels national.