College Football Playoff semifinals draw lower ratings on New Year’s Eve _lowres

Alabama players celebrate after the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football semifinal playoff game against Michigan State, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. Alabama won 38-0 to advance to the championship game. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

DALLAS — Jimmy Kimmel told people to watch. Even soap opera stars on “General Hospital” made not-so-subtle references to making plans to watch the College Football Playoff on New Year’s Eve.

All the prodding wasn’t enough to convince many fans to tune in.

College football’s move to create a new tradition with semifinal matchups on New Year’s Eve drew ratings about 36 percent lower than last season, when the matchups were held on New Year’s Day.

The Orange Bowl between Clemson and Oklahoma, which kicked off about 3:10 p.m. on ESPN, drew a 9.7 rating. The first semifinal last season, the Rose Bowl with Oregon and Florida State on New Year’s Day, earned a 15.5.

The Michigan State-Alabama Cotton Bowl drew a 9.9 rating for ESPN compared to 15.3 for Ohio State-Alabama in the Sugar Bowl last Jan. 1.

College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock told the AP he was still awaiting the results of the New Year’s Day games.

The dramatic matchups and results of last year’s first College Football Playoff semifinals led to record-breaking cable audiences for ESPN. The face-off between Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston in the Rose Bowl drew 28 million viewers.

Ohio State and Alabama, two of the most popular programs in college football, played a game that went down to the final play. Ohio State upset the Crimson Tide 42-35. That game also drew 28 million viewers. Those games represented the biggest cable TV audiences ever, until the first playoff championship game with Oregon-Ohio State topped it with 33 million viewers.

The matchups of this year’s games weren’t as attractive and both turned out to be lopsided.

But the biggest difference was the day the games were played.

The FBS conference commissioners who put together the College Football Playoff in 2012 said they wanted to create a new tradition by playing the semifinals on New Year’s Eve twice every three years over the course of a 12-year contract with ESPN. This is year two of that deal.

The decision was mostly to protect the interests of four conferences and two bowls. The Rose Bowl with the Big Ten and Pac-12 has traditionally been played in the early evening of Jan. 1.

The Big 12 and Southeastern Conference decided to have their own Rose Bowl-type relationship with the Sugar Bowl and lock in the television time slot right after the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.


WR BOYD GOING PRO: Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd is headed to the NFL.

Coach Pat Narduzzi said Friday that Boyd will enter the draft rather than return for his senior season. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Boyd set school records with 254 receptions and 3,361 yards receiving in three years with the Panthers.


EX-NEBRASKA STAFFER HIRED AS COORDINATOR: Purdue coach Darrell Hazell hired Ross Els as his new defensive coordinator Friday.

Els was Nebraska’s linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator from 2011-14.

Last season, he worked on the staff at his son’s high school, Lincoln Southwest in Nebraska.