Imagine if the NFL's conference championship game Sunday no longer existed. Instead, The Shield would begin the AFC Championship at 1 p.m. on the West Coast on a Thursday, and the NFC Championship wouldn't end until roughly 11:30 p.m. in the East on New Year's Eve.
That, of course, would never, ever happen.
Only college football would be foolish enough to schedule two of its three most important games of the season at such aggressively inconvenient times.
The ratings for the 2015 semifinals were an unmitigated disaster compared to the, uh, earlier 2015 semifinals; the Orange/Cotton semis were played before an audience 36 percent smaller than the inaugural Rose/Sugar semis conveniently played on New Year's Day. Ratings for the New Year's Six were down 13 percent overall from Year One, and the audience for Alabama's win over Clemson shrunk 23 percent from Ohio State's win over Oregon the year before.
College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock resolutely maintained that one year does not make a trend and that he and the Power 5 commissioners were confident the country would eventually adapt to their upstart tradition.
On Wednesday, Hancock didn't sound so confident.
“We will be exploring whether there is a better way for the semifinals,” he told USA Today. “We will be thinking about whether New Year’s Eve is the right way to go.”
It's worth noting Hancock takes his marching orders from the commissioners. He noted that his bosses' attitude has changed since the last time he stood in front of a recording device, and that alternatives are now being explored. “The bigger priority,” he told the paper, “is finding a date when the most people can watch the games.”
Hancock may also be surprised to learn the folks at Burger King are equally insistent on selling hamburgers. Especially after a year when Whopper sales dropped from 100,000 to 64,000 -- just go with me here, okay? -- and costs remained the same -- $470 million, to be exact.
Nothing will change in the near-term. New Year's Eve falls on a Saturday this year, and the semifinals move back to New Year's Day for the 2017 season. So the question then becomes when the 2018 semifinals, slated as of now for Monday, Dec. 31, will be played. That is anyone's guess -- I'll throw one down for staggered kicks on the nights of Jan. 2-3 -- but the smart money is on no more weekday New Year's Eve semifinals.