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A Scheduling Decision for the N.C.A.A.

I’d never remove a post once it goes up, but what occurs below is so devoid of proper research and so poorly worded that if I ever were to do so, this is the time. My general point, one that I phrased incorrectly, is that the N.F.L. comes first, college football second. But as a comment or two has illustrated, it’s really more a matter of history, not sporting preference. So read if you must, but this is a post for the garbage can. Apologies to readers and to those who might have linked to this elsewhere. We’ll get past this. Real college football news is coming shortly.

The 2011 season remains in doubt, what with the pending lockout and all, but if the N.F.L. players and team executives do manage to reach a contract agreement, professional and college football will intersect in early 2012. Week 17 of the projected 2011 season falls on Sunday, Jan. 1, which would pit the N.F.L. against the premier day of college football’s bowl season – an unavoidable pairing, but one that might go a long way towards determining just what place college football holds in our country’s collective sports conscience.

Not that it’s a decision some of us want to make, choosing one over of the other; typically we don’t have to, thanks to the N.F.L.’s insistence that nothing – not anything – run up against its weekly calendar. And it’s very much a decision we might not have to face, should the two sides in the league’s labor battle not reach a compromise, ending the current lockout that keeps its short-term future in doubt.

Even if the lockout does continue through the summer and early fall, however, the N.F.L. will be playing football by November or so, much in the same way earlier lockouts – like the one in 1982 – put the early season in jeopardy but saw the league reconvene with real, actual players by the year’s midway point. So by early January, even if it’s only, say, the 10th game of the season, we’ll have N.F.L. football to keep us company.

We might have had New Year’s Day bowl games also on the docket – those games aren’t going anywhere, though the dates will change. If this past season’s bowl calendar merely rolled over to 2012, with the same games running at the same times, N.F.L. games – which begin at 1 p.m. on the East Coast – would run up against the TicketCity, Outback, Capital One, Gator, Rose and Fiesta bowls. Take note of the final two games.

If this coming bowl season ran on the same schedule, the N.C.A.A. wouldn’t be heartbroken over losing some of its viewing audience for the TicketCity Bowl; that game, which pitted Texas Tech and Northwestern this past January, isn’t the most viewed game of the bowl season. The N.C.A.A. feels very strongly about that final pair of games: the Rose is one of the marquee events in all of college sports, and for now, the Fiesta remains part of the B.C.S. system.

To be fair, an N.F.L. game probably wouldn’t run up against the Fiesta, as the N.F.L. doesn’t as of yet have a night game scheduled for that final Sunday of the season. In this case, it’s more a situation where N.F.L.-first fans might be experiencing football overload, opting to take their attentions elsewhere once the Fiesta kicks off close to 8:40 p.m. back East.

Let’s look at this hypothetical scenario. It’s 4:30 p.m., and the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals are meeting with the N.F.C. West title on the line. At the same time, Oregon and Wisconsin are preparing for the opening kickoff of the Rose Bowl. What game are fans in the Pacific Northwest going to choose? Those who frequent this site have an easy answer: Rose. Those who don’t, however, those more casual fans who would watch the Rose if there was no sporting competition, might opt instead for the Seahawks and Cardinals.

Meet the N.C.A.A.’s nightmare. And a dreadful nightmare for ABC, ESPN and its sponsors, folks who view the Rose Bowl as a major event and a major money maker. Would college football take the chance of having its premier day jeopardized by the unavoidable head-to-head matchup with the final day of the N.F.L.’s regular season?

So the N.C.A.A. had a scheduling decision to make. Put games on Jan. 1 against the N.F.L. or push games back to the next day? The Rose Bowl has already been moved to a later date — much as the N.C.A.A. did in 2005, when the N.F.L. season ended on Jan. 1. If the rest of the bowl schedule follows suit, it will just be another example of the N.F.L. dictating the tempo for the rest of the sports world, as it has done for years.

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  1. [...] Paul Myerberg indicates, this won’t be a problem for me, as I could care less about the NFL, but the ratings should tell an [...]

  2. WashingtonDCduck says:

    This is awful. Now, the diehards who have horses in the race or who just love the pureness of college football will certainly watch those bowl games, even the Ticket City Bowl, over the last regular season week of the NFL. As for the casual fan, it will be interesting to see if the Rose Bowl for example takes a big ratings hit. Living here in Washington D.C. it will be non-stop coverage of the 7-8 Redskins at the 11-4 Eagles and how the Redskins will win the Super Bowl, and they are the greatest thing since sliced bread blah blah blah (ring the sarcasm bell now, the ESPN local Redskins blowhards are ridiculous).

    This does stink though, I guess I never realized the date that Jan 1st fell on this upcoming year. It’s nice to have a slice of the nation’s attention for those great games and during bowl season. With the NFL surely having some decisive games that Sunday 1/1/12, it will no doubt take the attention off of some deserving programs who don’t get a lot of time to shine.

  3. jjtiller says:

    Paul, Rose Bowls on January 2. (when New Year’s Day is on Sunday) is not a decision, it’s a tradition from 1922.

  4. NUwildcat09 says:

    jjtiller beat me to it. I was going to the same thing. As for the others, I have no clue.

  5. Matt Rob says:

    Dang, and just imagine how stressful this decision could be if the NCAA had a playoff and not just one-off bowl games?

  6. bcfremeau says:

    The other bowls have also traditionally moved their games to January 2nd whenever January 1st fell on a Sunday. The 1994 and 2005 seasons were the most recent examples. This should occur every 6-7 years, depending on leap year adjustments.

  7. wildcat6 says:

    Paul, looking forward once again to your 120-team countdown – 15 days to go! Right?

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