BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog by FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
My wife tells me to relax: After five straight years of attending a national championship game, (6 years of travel if you add in the Bama semi-final vs Ohio State), here I sit, about to watch the national championship game on TV. While there's nothing glamorous about sitting in a TV satellite truck editing hi-lites and interviews at 3 am (ya think Chris Fowler does that?), covering a title game is still a rush. Today? I am suffering from NCW, better known as the National Championship Withdrawal. And all I can think of is what might have been if those two other teams had advanced to the championship game.
The Ducks versus the Bucks. Sure, it has a nice ring to it, but I'm here to tell you that the TV moguls at ESPN, as well as you and me, can only dream of the TV ratings that could have been. First the good news for the folks in Bristol, CT, who ponied up $7.3 billion over 12 years to televise the College Football Playoffs: The two recent semi-final games were the most-watched programs in the history of cable television. The Alabama-Ohio State game reeled in a whopping 28.3 million viewers, while the FSU-Oregon game reeled in 28.2 million. And while Monday's championship game expects to grab over 30 million viewers, just think of the viewers that would tune into the match-up I wanted to see: Alabama vs FSU.
An Alabama-FSU game would have had every ingredient that would make for huge TV numbers: A traditional NCAA power in Alabama (Sorry Buckeye fans, you're not at the level of the folks from Tuscaloosa), the nation's top college football coach (once again, my apologies Mr. Meyer, but while you are close to you-know-who, you're just a notch beneath him), and the most important ingredient that would have wooed viewers? Alabama and FSU are two schools that many people outside the states of Alabama and Florida have come to hate.
Hating on Bama? In my eight years of covering Nick Saban I have found him to be nothing but fair, outspoken and entertaining. He allows far more media access than many coaches (I mean giving coaching tips in my front lawn and having breakfast at the house on live TV?). But many fans outside our state see a cocky coach who makes $7 million a year. They see a coach who wins too much (see New York Yankees and New England Patriots). They see a coach who years ago sat in Miami and said, "OK, I'll say it, I'm not going to become the Alabama coach". And they see yet another SEC football team playing for yet another national championship.
Hating on FSU? While Jimbo Fisher has been nothing but fair and accessible to me (he stopped by Fox6 during his off week in 2014 to tape an entire "Tide & Tigers Today" segment), the 'Noles have become in the eyes of many the Evil Empire- something about Jameis Winston, I hear. Something about how Jimbo consistently comes to the defense of the young man from Hueytown when many think that Winston needs anything but more enablers surrounding him.
Yes, there are good people at Alabama and FSU, but the bottom line is that both teams tend to polarize, and polarization makes for great TV ratings. Think of what a Crimson Tide-Seminoles match-up would do for TV ratings: Many fans would want to see that SEC run come to an end. Many, fair or not, would like to see Winston suffer his first loss as a college quarterback. While both have indeed happened, drama would have better been served if it all came down to a championship game. Winston, the local kid who chose FSU over Alabama, either beating or losing to the team that lies 40 miles from his house). Nick Saban either winning his 4th national championship in six years or losing to the QB from Crimson Tide territory.
Looking for polarization in the Oregon-Ohio State game? Besides some Bama fans hoping to see Urban Meyer take it on the chin, there's not much there. Marcus Mariota? Great kid, super story. Cardale Jones? Ditto. So while an Alabama-FSU match-up would certainly have it's share of heartfelt stories (i.e. Blake Sims, Amari Cooper, etc), America would have loved the pairing if only to raise the emotion meter up several notches.
The Ducks and the Bucks? It sounds like a story you'd read to your 4-year-old at bedtime. For my money, and ESPN's TV ratings, give me Alabama vs FSU anytime. The Tide and the Noles were beaten on the field, thus they are deserving of watching the big game just like us. But imagine the TV ratings if America landed #1 vs #3 rather than #2 vs #4. We can only dream...