Tuesday was the day after the night before, with reality setting in as all had to come to grips with the fact that the college basketball season is over. It also was a day to relive the night before, to make sure what we saw was as real and as great as we thought it was at the time.
Indeed, Villanova’s buzzer-beating win over North Carolina to win its second national title was very real, and it is indeed a bummer that the season is over. It would be a bummer for considerably more people if only they had actually watched the championship game.
Monday night’s game received a record-low television title game rating of 10.6, combining the numbers of TBS’s main feed plus the TNT and truTV team-specific broadcasts. The mark was worse than the previous low of 10.8 for the relative clunker between Carolina and Michigan State in 2009. It also was a steep drop from the rating of 17.1 for last year’s Duke-Wisconsin final, and the 17.8 million viewers for this year’s final was 37% below the 28.3 who watched last year’s game.
Typically the ratings for Final Four games can rise or fall with the quality of game, yet one of the best championship games ever provided little boost to this year’s numbers. Even with fans turning in late (a peak of 22.2 million at the end), the numbers are a dramatic disappointment considering how good the game was.
It bore watching to see how the move to cable for this year’s national semifinals and final would affect viewership, after Turner Sports was granted the rights to these biggies as part of the NCAA’s latest combined TV deal with CBS and Turner for the NCAA Tournament. Needless to say, the news is not good.
The NCAA really has no room to shed tears here, though, other than perhaps for the lack of foresight when it took this most recent contract. The NCAA, its leadership and any member schools or administrators who supported this contract are getting exactly what they deserve. For, like so many governing body entities, the NCAA chose the money in the short term over preserving exposure and keeping its audience engaged long-term.
Regardless of what the money says, moving games from broadcast television to cable is a step backwards. Estimates have TBS in nearly 20% fewer households than CBS. Fewer people watching the biggest games of the year-college basketball’s biggest showcase-results in decreased interest in the long haul. It’s not that complicated.
As we repeatedly say, the NCAA sometimes takes more hits than it deserves (usually for legislation that is offered up and passed by its member schools, who should be the real ones to blame) but it deserves every bit of criticism it gets for its lack of forward-thinking here. It made a money grab at a cost.
The defense immediately furnished will be that revenue from this contract goes back to members and allows the governing body to put on its 89 championship events. The NCAA has put on championships for decades, though, with far less than the $10.8 billion it currently pulls in from the networks.
The NCAA could’ve taken a contract with less money but more control (national championship games over the air; no East Regional tip times at 9:37 p.m.) and still done just fine. Perhaps it would’ve had to cut spending on excesses such as the laser light display introductions at the Final Four. Maybe it means not wasting money on custom courts for every game site and actually using the courts in those arenas that seem to work just fine the rest of the year. Don’t think for a second that there isn’t fat that can be trimmed.
Instead, the NCAA followed the path so arrogantly chosen by professional sports leagues, taking the money now and assuming the fans will remain there later. It’s a strategy that has been proven anywhere from risky (see the NFL’s current standing, still on top but teetering) to foolish (the decline of NASCAR), and this year’s national title game ratings show it was a bust for the the NCAA.
- Connecticut drilled Syracuse 82-51 in the women’s national title game to win its fourth consecutive championship. The Huskies now have won 10 of the last 17 women’s national championships.
- News from UConn on the men’s side: Daniel Hamilton has announced that he is staying in the NBA Draft and will hire an agent. Hamilton originally announced he would test the waters last week. It’s a key loss for the Huskies, as he was the soul of the engine on this year’s team, a versatile player who could impact the game in many ways.
- James Madison formally announced Louis Rowe as its new head coach at a press conference yesterday, a hire that was reported last week. Rowe is a former JMU player from 1993-95 who at the time was perhaps best known as sharing a name similar to then-Massachusetts star Lou Roe, but Rowe also was a former all-CAA performer who averaged nearly 22 points per game as a senior. He was most recently an assistant at Bowling Green and also was an assistant at James Madison from 2005-12.
- Nothing. Watch the NBA (if you must), the NHL as the Stanley Cup Playoffs near, or some early-season baseball. We’ll be starting to work on about 80 games left on our DVR from this season, but will have a few more Morning Dishes yet this week before signing off for the season.
Have a wonderful Wednesday.