Bill Hancock: The playoff is ‘absolutely locked’ into New Year’s Eve

Last Thursday’s College Football Playoff semifinals — played this year on New Year’s Eve instead of New Year’s Day — saw massive declines in the television audiences for both games. Despite that, CFP executive director Bill Hancock said Monday on The Audible podcast that he and the conference commissioners that oversee the event are "not talking about making any changes."

"The contract is in place for 12 years," Hancock said in an interview taped Monday morning. "We have not talked at all about making any changes."

Despite relentless ads on ESPN urging viewers to "plan accordingly" on New Year’s Eve, large numbers of people tuned out the afternoon Clemson-Oklahoma Orange Bowl and primetime Alabama-Michigan State Cotton Bowl. The former saw a 45 percent drop from the previous year’s Rose Bowl (from around 28 million viewers to 15.64 million). The latter declined 34 percent to 18.55 million.

Hancock said the lopsided nature of both contests — Clemson won 37-17, Alabama 38-0 — make it difficult to say how much the change of date was a factor as opposed to the less competitive games.

"We all need to be careful, step back and remember that one year does not make a trend," he said.

Hancock acknowledged that changing the calendar would be difficult given the Big Ten-Pac 12 Rose Bowl and Big 12-SEC Sugar Bowl locked in their Jan. 1 time slots with ESPN before the larger playoff deal went to market. Even had that not been the case, however, he said organizers planned to respect the Rose Bowl’s traditional window.

Ratings should go back up for at least the early game next season when New Year’s Eve falls on a Saturday. And in the following year, the Jan. 1 Rose and Sugar Bowls take their second turn hosting the playoff games. So a situation like this year’s won’t present itself again until Year 5 of the contract.

"It may turn out by the time we get to Year 5, and we’ve had competitive games, that we say, ‘You know what, it’s not working,’ said Hancock. "But it’s important not to jump to conclusions after one year of admittedly disappointing ratings."

To hear the entire interview, as well as Bruce and Stewart’s takeaways from bowl season and a lookahead to Alabama-Clemson, download The Audible on iTunes or listen on the SoundCloud player embedded at the top.