By Stephen Hawkins
AP Sports Writer
IRVING, Texas — College Football Playoff officials believe several factors contributed to the significant decline in television ratings for the second year of the playoff.
After a presentation from ESPN during their spring meeting Wednesday, CFP executive director Bill Hancock says there is no way to determine exactly how much the decline for last season’s semifinal games can be blamed on any of those factors. They include playing late into New Year’s Eve, the non-competitive nature of those games and maybe a “sophomore slump.”
“It’s just so important to remember that one year doesn’t make a trend,” Hancock said. “On the other hand, we’re watching, we’re paying attention.”
CFP officials already knew the TV ratings for the Dec. 31 semifinals were down about 35 percent from the 2014 season, when they were played on Jan. 1. Changes for next season already include moving the Orange Bowl to prime time on Dec. 30 and the start of the New Year’s Eve semifinals one hour earlier than last season.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said ESPN has a research guru to “slice and dice” the data in every which way. He said “a confluence of events” for last season’s games had an impact on the ratings.
Scott said conference commissioners and others in the meeting asked a lot of questions about how to weigh the impact of all those different factors. He also said there will be a better feel for things after another year of data.
“We will continue to review this matter. We talked to (ESPN), listened to them talk about various data points they had,” Hancock said. “It was all very positive discussion, and that will help us to evaluate in future.”
Some other notes from the CFP meeting:
— There will again be six weeks of rankings during the season, the first on Nov. 1 and with the final poll coming out Dec. 4.
“That’s a good number,” said Hancock, noting the first ranking will be after the ninth week of the season and provide “plenty of games to evaluate.”
Hancock believes the CFP rankings have helped the regular season.
“I think we probably underestimated how much boost that would give to the regular season, as fans from around the country could now look around and see who they had to cheer for,” he said.
— Jeff Long, the Arkansas athletic director, gave his final report as the chairman of the CFP selection committee. Long, who held the chairmanship for the first two years, is still part of the selection committee.
Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt, the new chairman, met with Long on Wednesday. Hocutt has already chaired a meeting of the committee in Houston during the NCAA Final Four.
— The next round of bidding for CFP championship games will begin in 2017 and likely finish up in the summer of 2018. The games are set through the 2019 season after a pair of three-year decisions. Hancock said the group could do more or less than three years at a time moving forward
Hancock said there remains significant interest for cities that want to host games, and that about dozen cities meet the criteria.
“We want to move the game around. We’re very proud of the fact that the first six games will be played in six different states,” he said. “That is not to foreclose the possibility of somebody getting it again, but I think our attitude will continue to be, if we can move around, we’d like to.”
— There will be a capacity of about 72,000 for next January’s championship game in Tampa. There will be about 20,000 tickets for each school.
— Hancock said there were positive reviews from all four schools that were in the playoff about the expanded program that helped the families of student-athletes with travel-related expenses to attend the games.