Edward Murphy, whose eponymous law is a fundamental principle of engineering, once reportedly said of a particularly incompetent technician: “If there is any way to do it wrong, he’ll find it.”
Murphy’s been dead since 1990, but if he were alive today, he’d probably look at ESPN’s programming department and say the same thing.
That’s about the only way you can explain ESPN’s puzzling-at-best schedule for the 2019-20 college football bowl season.
In past years, there were a bunch of bowl games with names like the Participation Trophy Bowl Presented by Fly-By-Night Industries that would pit the fifth-place team from the Mid-American Conference against some power conference also-ran that went 5-7 but got a bowl invite anyway.
These would air on a Thursday night in mid-December and pull weaker ratings than some regular-season NBA game airing at the same time on TNT.
After getting those goofy games out of the way, the TV networks could switch their focus to the College Football Playoff semifinals at the end of December and then to the “New Year’s Six” bowl games on Jan. 1, all leading up to the national title game on the second Monday night of the year, a slot vacated by the end of the NFL’s regular season.
For the 2019-20 season, however, a quirk of the calendar has rendered this traditional schedule unworkable.
As Awful Announcing pointed out, the season will end on Dec. 7 because of the way Saturdays fall in the calendar this year.
With Thanksgiving having cycled back to November 28 after it fell on the 22 in 2018, the traditional rivalry games played Thanksgiving weekend will by necessity push that last week of action, including conference championship games, deeper into December.
Thus, there simply isn’t enough room to play all those minor bowl games in mid-December, thanks to a combination of the NFL’s Week 17 and the fact that New Year’s Day falls on a Wednesday in 2020.
They can’t just cancel the participation-trophy games, though.
So ESPN has decided to air all of its bowl games between Dec. 20 and Jan. 13, which is the second Monday of the year and home of the national championship game.
And a large chunk of the less important bowl games will be played on or after Dec. 28, which is the day of the CFP semifinals.
ESPN released the schedule in chart form to alleviate any confusion.
ESPN Rolls Out Bowl Schedule for 2019-20 College Football Season
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) May 23, 2019
It seems to make sense on paper, but fans are up in arms about it.
USA Today’s Dan Wolken led the charge of those purists who believe meaningless bowl games should be played before the real games can begin.
ESPN just released its bowl schedule for this year. There will be 15 bowl games played after the CFP semifinals. This is a bad system.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) May 23, 2019
Jason Kirk of SBNation, however, disputed Wolken’s point on the grounds, it seems, that it’s silly to complain about more games to tide people over while they wait for the national championship.
Normal brain: Bowls between the playoff and title game are bad because idk that’s weird or something, no real explanation offered, ugh I don’t like things pout
Enhanced brain: The Mobile bowl, long traditionally played on like 1/5, should kick off right before Army’s spring game
— John Wack (@JasonKirkSBN) May 23, 2019
And another fan pointed out that this is the fault of the calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, not ESPN.
the main reason for this is that there are only four full weekends in December, the first of which will be taken up by the conf title games. stupid pope gregory https://t.co/pYr0fjol6G
— J.R. Lind (@jrlind) May 23, 2019
The whole thing does seem to be much ado about nothing.
The traditional New Year’s Day games, at least some of them, will still be played on New Year’s Day.
The semifinals are on a Saturday instead of some time in the middle of the week, when ratings would invariably end up being a complete disaster.
And the kinds of people who watch bowl games between six-win teams or who went to one of the schools in the game will probably watch them no matter when they’re on.
Besides, playing so many bowl games between the semifinals and the national championship will give ESPN plenty of time to hype up the big game with a deluge of promos and in-game advertising.
In point of fact, though, maybe that fan talking about the calendar has got it right: This never would have happened if Julius Caesar and Sosigenes of Alexandria were still alive.
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