Ohio State defensive lineman Steve Miller (88) runs an intercepted ball against Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper (9) in the second half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal game, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015, in New Orleans. Miller ran the ball back for a touchdown. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

BRISTOL, Conn. — The first College Football Playoff semifinals drew the two largest audiences in cable television history.

ESPN had a 15.2 rating and averaged 28,271,000 viewers for its Sugar Bowl broadcast Thursday night after drawing a 14.8 rating and averaging 28,164,000 viewers for the Rose Bowl, Nielsen said Friday.

Both games had significant increases from last year on ESPN when the Rose Bowl had a 10.2 rating and averaged 18,636,000 viewers and the Sugar Bowl had a 6.6 rating and averaged 11,304,000 viewers.

ESPN also will broadcast the Jan. 12 national championship game between Oregon and Ohio State. The network has drawn the 18 largest audiences in cable TV history and 36 of the top 40.

Despite technical problems during the Rose Bowl, WatchESPN averaged 864,000 unique viewers for the two games.


GREG McGARITY PLANS EXTENSION FOR MARK RICHT: Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said he’s working on a contract extension for football coach Mark Richt.

Richt’s No. 13 Bulldogs finished the 2014 season with a 10-3 record, including a 37-14 victory over No. 20 Louisville in the Belk Bowl on Tuesday night.

The 54-year-old Richt has three years remaining on a deal that paid him about $3.2 million this season.

Several media outlets reported excerpts from a letter McGarity wrote to donors. McGarity said in the letter he’ll be working on an extension for Richt “over the coming days.”

McGarity also wrote about plans for an indoor practice facility and enhancements to Sanford Stadium.

Richt is 136-48 in 14 seasons. Following the bowl win, he denied rumors he plans to retire.

North Carolina

SOURCE SAYS GENE CHIZIK WILL RUN DEFENSE: Former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik has accepted an offer to coach North Carolina’s struggling defense, a person familiar with the situation said Friday.

The person said Chizik will receive a 3-year contract. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the school won’t make an official announcement until the deal is finalized and approved by its board of trustees.

Chizik will replace Vic Koenning, who was associate head coach for defense the past three seasons. The Tar Heels had one of the worst defensive years in school history.

Around the nation

Kansas wide receiver Nigel King will skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft. ... Minnesota All-America tight end Maxx Williams is also turning pro, giving up his two remaining years of eligibility. ... New Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is now on Twitter: @CoachJim4UM.