ESPN wants next season’s Orange Bowl to be shifted from New Year’s Eve to Saturday, Jan. 2, but the College Football Playoff is resisting, industry sources confirmed Monday.
The Orange and Cotton bowls will be the playoff’s national semifinal games next season, with one starting at 5 p.m. and the other at 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 31. The time for each game will not be set until the matchups are determined.
ESPN is concerned that scheduling the games on New Year’s Eve will diminish ratings and has asked that the games be moved to Jan. 2, Sports Business Journal first reported Monday.
ESPN still hopes to convince the College Football Playoff to make the change but isn’t optimistic, according to a source.
In 2016, Jan. 2 is the day before the final Sunday of the NFL’s regular season, and the NFL is not expected to schedule games that day. But the officials who run the College Football Playoff have resisted the move, saying the plan for the next 11 years is to hold all the semifinal games on Dec. 31 or Jan 1.
“The fact is that we have started a new tradition of back-to-back tripleheaders on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. “We’re not interested in changing for one year, then returning for the next 10.”
The OB doesn’t feel strongly about the matter and ultimately must defer to whatever the CFP decides, according to a source.
The OB and Cotton bowls will host national semifinals four times in the next 11 years and are scheduled to be played on New Year’s Eve each of those four years.
“We completely support the New Year’s scheduling connections for the College Football Playoff throughout our 12-year agreement,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said. “For the one year in 2016 when the calendar falls a certain way, the idea was to consider moving the games from Thursday, Dec. 31, to Saturday, Jan. 2, to allow for a more accessible, fan- and participant-friendly experience for all. It’s strictly a one-year concept.”
During the first-ever College Football playoff early this month, the two semifinal games — the Rose and Sugar bowls — were played on Jan. 1, when games typically draw larger TV audiences than on New Year’s Eve.
Asked recently if he’s concerned how TV ratings or attendance will be affected by playing on New Year’s Eve, Orange Bowl CEO Eric Poms said: “We’re fine with it. I’m cautiously optimistic.”
The contract for the playoff runs 12 years. During the seven remaining years when the Orange Bowl is not hosting a national semifinal, its day and time will vary. Two of the OB games will be on Dec. 30 at 8:30 p.m., two on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m., two at 1 p.m. on Dec. 31 and one on Dec. 31 at 8 or 8:30 p.m.