For two years now, college football has embraced the human judgment of the Selection Committee as a replacement to the BCS system. The two team playoff has been expanded to four teams, computers are no longer a direct input to the system and some committee members have already come and gone. While the reception from fans has been largely positive, it's important with every new paradigm to review it from time to time, and two years seems like a good benchmark for the College Football Selection Committee to receive its first report card.
While the constant tinkering with the BCS system has been cited as one of the reasons for its overall lack of acceptance and eventual destruction, the committee selection process has intentionally maintained its status quo. Large scale changes to the process are thus unlikely after just two years, but enough time has passed to take a look back and hand out some grades. We'll cover seven different categories over the next few weeks as listed below. First up, Entertainment Value.
- Entertainment Value
- Effect on Scheduling
- Committee Members
- Consideration of Past Champions
- The Four Best Teams
- Weighing Conference Championships
When it comes to overall entertainment value, the new four team playoff system has undeniably crushed it. If the Selection Committee has nailed just one aspect in the past two seasons, it is the injection of excitement in the college football post season. Changes, good or bad, always bolster discussion, but the addition of a second round of post season matchups, along with the uncertainty of who might advance, has seriously bolstered the buzz around college football and made it as popular as it has ever been. If nothing else, the playoff has been an overwhelming success in bringing in more money and attention to the sport than ever before. Hats off to the powers that be for recognizing the potential excitement inherent in a four team college football playoff.
While the overall buzz around the four team playoff has been undeniably excellent, there was some discussion this season with regards to the dip in television ratings for both the semi-finals and championship game. The semi-final games took a massive hit relative to the first season, dropping about 36% from an average rating of 15.4 for the two games down to a 9.8. The Championship Game also declined, falling 15% to a rating of 15.8.
There were significant differences between the first and second year to explain this drop, including the novelty of the first season giving it an undeniable boost as those games all set records for viewership, the semi-finals this season both being blowouts by the second half as well as continued SEC, or just plain Alabama, fatigue. The reason most discussed, however, was that the semi-finals this year took place on New Year's Eve rather than New Year's Day.
The New Year's Eve timeslot resulted in less people tuning into the games, while many people who were watching did so on a single bar tv, as well as a record setting number of people watching online using the WatchESPN app, all of which hurt the overall tv numbers. The committee director, Bill Hancock, has been highly criticized for the scheduling of these two games, but due to the deficiencies in the systems used to rate viewership as well as only two years of data to review, he has remained firm with the future schedule, placing seven of the next ten pairs of semi-finals on New Year's Eve.
The excitement generated by the new four team playoff is undeniable, and the decision not to make a decision regarding the New Year's Eve timeslot demonstrates the patience needed to properly evaluate this aspect of the system. While the ratings numbers for three games have understandably dropped after the first year, college football is more popular than it has ever been, and for that the committee system should be commended.
Entertainment Value Grade: A