As some of us are still trying to work off the Thanksgiving turkey, a very real thought has now crossed all of our minds: the holiday season is officially upon us. While this thought can strike fear and stress in many parents across the nation, for college football fans, it means that we are officially in “bowl season.” This bowl season feels particularly different from past years, one with more optimism than ever before. When talking about college football, the BCS usually goes from a three-letter word to a four-letter word. However, this year everyone around college football is excited because the number-one ranked Fighting Irish of Notre Dame have earned their way into the BCS title game. The system (finally) worked!
Typing that last sentence feels a little odd. Sure, this season has seen a talented Notre Dame team (defense) put together an undefeated season that has fans in South Bend partying like it’s 1988. But I’d be remiss to overlook how they’ve gotten their fair share of help from other teams. So, while the Golden Domers have dreams of a crystal football and a return to college football dominance, it’s really the state of college football that couldn’t be happier. With Notre Dame back on top, this means nothing but dollar signs for an Irish National Championship berth, their first in more than two decades.
While much of a college’s football popularity lies in regional ties and alumni alliances, Notre Dame is a program so storied and historic that it is able to transcend regional boundaries. In fact, Notre Dame could end up making many brands and broadcast companies happy thanks to its recent winning ways. ABC recently saw the power of the Notre Dame fans with the USC rivalry game drawing a 10.3 overnight rating, translating to more than 16 million viewers (the highest-rated college football game of the season). NBC has also been smiling all season long; reporting that viewership for Notre Dame games is up 76% this year. And finally, ESPN also must be happy, primed to benefit from Notre Dame being in the BCS Championship, on the heels of signing a deal for more bowl games with the impending playoffs from 2014 through 2025.
Who else stands to benefit? Well, the BCS itself is ecstatic. The potential money that a program of Notre Dame’s caliber can generate is astounding, and we’re not just talking ratings. The ticket prices for last year’s BCS Championship game between LSU and Alabama reached a record median price of $1,100.00. With the BCS title game featuring Notre Dame, median prices are expected to reach $1,800.00 and beyond (according to an Indianapolis Business Journal article). That same article also predicts that a title game featuring Notre Dame could see ratings of more than 25 million viewers, a potential watermark moment for BCS coverage.
Nothing can take the Irish out of the spotlight; not even the recent curious moves of conference realignment. Recently, Rutgers and Maryland both were cleared to move to the Big Ten Conference. Traditionalists will frown at this news, but others argue that it’s a great opportunity for the conference to reach East Coast television markets. Meanwhile, the top-ranked Irish are in the unique position to stay independent for the foreseeable future, thanks in part to this magical season.
Even the Heisman conversation is now being dominated by the Irish. Perhaps, the most puzzling part of this season has been the lack of an individual Notre Dame superstar. This season has no Vince Young, Cam Newton or Mark Ingram, carrying their contender into a certain Heisman and a supposed Championship win. But now, the Irish have a probable Heisman winner in Manti Te'o. A defensive Heisman winner is always noteworthy, and with an impending National Championship in the balance, it will certainly add to the drama.
The 2012 season has certainly been one to remember, and thankfully not for fans screaming angrily at the BCS. A Notre Dame National Championship game will appeal across all generations and is sure to have the makings of an instant classic. With a BCS playoff on the horizon that is a true reflection of the top two teams in the nation, the future couldn’t be brighter for college football.