HOOVER, Ala. — If you, like many others, were upset with the College Football Playoff semifinals taking place on New Year’s Eve, there could be some change coming.
During his 10-minute interview session at SEC Media Days on Monday, CFP executive director Bill Hancock addressed the elephant in the room.
“We will be looking at that,” Hancock said. “This year’s game will be on New Year’s Eve again, on a Saturday. As you probably saw, we moved the kickoffs up one hour. It’ll be at 3:00 and 7:00 as opposed to 4:00 and 8:00. Next year, they’ll be on New Year’s Day so we have some time.
“But we pledged after this year’s games we will be looking at the semifinal schedule and will continue to do that. We don’t feel any rush to make a decision now, tomorrow or any time in the relatively near future.”
The ratings plummeted in the second year of the playoff as the games fell on the holiday. The Orange Bowl, which saw Clemson defeat Oklahoma in the early, drew a 9.7.
The overnight for the Cotton Bowl, which featured an Alabama blowout over Michigan State in the late game, was a 9.9.
Last year’s semifinals were 15.5 for the early game and 15.3 for the late contest.
“The issues are what day is the best to allow the most number of people to watch the games, and, yes, we were disappointed with the viewership, although millions of people watched those games,” Hancock said. “The semifinal games this year were among the highest-rated cable games of all time.”
ESPN has a contract worth $80 million per year with the SEC and Big 12 for the Sugar Bowl to be played on Jan. 1. The Rose Bowl has also historically been played on Jan. 1.
“We know we face the challenge with New Year’s Eve. We also know that we face the challenge with the games not being as competitive as they were before. We didn’t have two Heisman Trophy winners playing in our games this year. We may have had a bit of a sophomore slump with the New Year’s Eve matter. I don’t know. But certainly the date was a factor.
“I feel fortunate that we have time to make the right decision on this, and we will take our time, and we’ll make a decision. And as soon as we know, we’ll certainly let you all know.”
One thing that isn’t up for debate in the near future is the number of teams in the playoff. While many pundits and fans have wondered if the popularity of the games would push the playoff to expand, that’s not on the table for Sankey and the committee.
“There’s no discussion of expanding,” Hancock said, emphatically. “We set the four-team tournament for 12 years, and there’s no discussion in our group about any kind of expansion.”