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ESPN, NFL Want College Football Playoff Schedule Changes

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New Year's Eve semifinal games don't make a lot of sense anyway, but the title game should remain on Monday night.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

A report by John Ourand and Michael Smith in the Sports Business Journal says that both ESPN and the NFL want the College Football Playoff to change its planned dates for future events.

First, the Worldwide Leader. ESPN is concerned about a ratings dip for next year's semifinals, the Orange and Cotton Bowls:

Sources say that senior network executives as high up as ESPN President John Skipper are pushing for the change as a way to get better television ratings, but the CFP is unwilling to make such a move because it is committed to the original plan to hold tripleheader bowl games, including the semifinals, on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

"We’ve started a new tradition and we don’t want to back away from it now," said Bill Hancock, the CFP’s executive director.

For what it's worth, the Orange Bowl was the latest of the New Year's Eve CPF games, and it pulled a low rating by the game's standards. Of course, some of that could be the fact that the teams in the game—Mississippi State and Georgia Tech—are not traditional powers and don't tend to generate massive interest on their own. A lot of it was probably that people were out celebrating New Year's and not at home watching football.

It's also not hard to see what's going on with semifinals happening on New Year's Eve when you look at the future schedule. The semifinals are set for NYE not just next season but the season after too. On New Year's Day both times, however, the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl are happening. The Rose has been a New Year's Day game since forever, and the Grandaddy will get what it wants thanks to having the powerful Big Ten and Pac-12 as its patrons. The Sugar is the bowl for the SEC and Big 12 (but mostly the SEC), and there is prestige associated with it being on New Year's Day instead of New Year's Eve too.

So, the CFP is making a questionable call by putting the semifinals on New Year's Eve two of every three years so both the Rose and Sugar can always be on New Year's Day. It's probably due to politics, so the bowl of the SEC doesn't in any way look less prestigious than the bowl of the Big Ten and Pac-12. It's also likely for that same reason that they set up a rotation where, instead of having one contract bowl and one host bowl every season, the Rose and Sugar (both contract bowls) are together. One couldn't let the other go first in the inaugural year, so they had to be together. And before you make a historical argument about the Sugar Bowl and New Year's Day, the Orange Bowl is just as old as the Sugar and also was traditionally a January 1 game. In the CFP system, it will never take place on New Year's Day. It goes to show how much pull the ACC has vis-a-vis the other power leagues.

As for the NFL, the argument for a schedule change is on much shakier ground. The league is thinking about expanding its playoffs ever further, something that this year's awful Cardinals-Panthers Wild Card Game should have shut the door on forever. If the NFL did expand its playoffs, it might want to feature a wild card game on Monday night. The problem is, the CFP has scheduled its championship game for the Monday night in question and doesn't want to change:

"We picked Monday night because it was open and it was the best night for our game. We announced that in June 2012," Hancock said. "We established that our game was going to be on Monday night for 12 years."

You can make an argument for moving the title game off of Monday to Saturday so that it's not on a school night and children can possibly stay up until the end. Or on a Saturday, it could just kick off earlier without having to be late at all. That case can be made, but it has nothing to do with accommodating the pro league.

Figuring out a way to put semifinal games on New Year's Day is a worthy cause. Moving the title game solely because the NFL wants a crappy wild card game on Monday night is not.