Seated next to the College Football Playoff’s championship trophy, Alabama coach Nick Saban voiced concern Tuesday about the postseason format and suggested the bowl system and the “national interest” in a playoff might not parallel.
“I am concerned about how does a playoff and a bowl system coexist,” Saban said, “and how could we make it better, if it’s possible, or get it right.”
Alabama earned its fourth national championship in seven seasons with a 45-40 victory against Clemson on Monday. It was the 15th game for both teams. Saban said he sensed the Crimson Tide’s players didn’t have as much energy as they’d had 12 days earlier in a Cotton Bowl semifinal win against Michigan State.
“It was really, really difficult after a long season for us to maintain the sort of intensity that we had,” he said.
That might also have been true for fans. Overnight ratings for the national championship game were down 15% from last year, according to The Sports Business Journal, when the inaugural version of the Playoff created record ratings for cable TV. Some linked it to lower ratings in the semifinals — played on New Year’s Eve, they were down more than 36% from last year — and suggested those created lessened interest in the title game.
“I think it’s too soon to try to attribute it to anything,” said Bill Hancock, the College Football Playoff’s executive director. “There will be time later to talk about all those numbers.
“Today is a day to reflect on a tremendous football season. Millions of people watched. If there was a slight decline in the ratings, it doesn’t overshadow what happened in that stadium(Monday) night.”
Saban’s concerns were of a slightly different nature. He noted the Crimson Tide’s week spent in the Dallas area while preparing for the Cotton Bowl semifinal, which provided a traditional bowl experience and included extracurricular activities such as hospital visits and team outings, and then having to travel to Arizona for a stripped-down but similar experience in the run-up to the national title game.
“I think it’s a great venue. I’m not complaining,” Saban said. “But it’s just difficult. You don’t have that circumstance in the NFL. You play home and away games when you’re in the (NFL) playoffs.
“This whole dynamic of how do we keep a healthy bowl system, which I think is great for college football. It’s great for a lot of positive self-gratification for a lot of players who had a good season, and the national interest we have in a playoff, which sort of overwhelms the importance of all the other bowl games.”
Hancock touted the overall bowl system, including the Playoff, the other four New Year’s Six bowls and the 34 other bowls, and said it “continues to be a great experience for the players.”
“We intentionally fit the Playoff in the bowl system,” Hancock said. “I think that was the wise thing to do. Postseason football is healthy.”
Republication permission by original author George Schroeder and USA Today the original publisher. Article