College Football

Why College Football Playoff should hold steady as NFL sends a clear message with counter-scheduling

Why College Football Playoff should hold steady as NFL sends a clear message with counter-scheduling

When the NFL released its 2024 schedule on Wednesday, it sent a shot straight into the heart of college football. Dec. 21 marked the first round of the new 12-team College Football Playoff with three important contests scheduled on a day that the NFL has historically held games. In response to the encroachment, the NFL counter-scheduled two massive matchups opposite the CFP slate. 

The Texans face the Chiefs at 1 p.m. ET in a battle of Patrick Mahomes and C.J. Stroud, two of the top young quarterbacks in the sport. At 4:30, Baltimore and Pittsburgh play in a renewal of one of the NFL’s great rivalries. Unlike the CFP games, both matchups are guaranteed to air on broadcast television, not basic cable. 

When the NFL wants to clear you out, there’s not much that can be done. Last year, the league decided it wanted to take over Christmas and push the NBA out. The ratings for those games towered over the traditional day of basketball. The NFL holds a Marvel-level monopoly over sports culture for better or worse. For fans of anything else, it’s for far worse. 

Regardless, college football will not move — and should not. 

Scheduling was one of the biggest complications for the expanded College Football Playoff as the organization tried to sandwich the regular season, recruiting, the NFL and classroom dates into a clean product. Despite reportedly consulting with the NFL, the CFP ultimately decided that battling on Saturday is preferable to trying to shoehorn multiple games during a regular work week in December. 

“We looked at all those options before,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said in April. “Could we play Thursday night? Could we play more than one game Friday? No great options. Where we settled out is the option that ESPN was happy with.” 

The College Football Playoff schedule that was released for the next two seasons features a Friday night first-round game, along with a tripleheader in each traditional window: 12 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 7 p.m. With the shorter length of NFL games, the endings of could run right up against college football endings. So now, college football will prepare for perhaps the biggest wrinkle in the history of the sport while going up against the Empire. And big picture, it’s the right decision. 

It’s nearly impossible to contextualize the power the NFL wields in sports and broadcast television. In 2023, 93 of the 100 most-watched television…

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