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The ACC Bowl Ratings Game and the Orange Bowl

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Brian: The ratings are in for the 2009-2010 ACC bowl season. Check out the ratings from the ACC's 7 bowl games:

Date Bowl Matchup Network Rating Viewers (mil)
1-6-2010 Orange Georgia Tech-Iowa
FOX 6.8 10.9
12-26-2009 Emerald Boston College-USC
ESPN 4.6 7.6
12-31-2009 Peach Virginia Tech-Tennessee
ESPN 4.2 7.5
12-29-2009 Champs Sports
Miami (Fla.)-Wisconsin
ESPN 3.9 6.2
12-26-2009 Meineke Car Care North Carolina-Pittsburgh
ESPN 3.9 6.1
1-1-2010 Gator Florida State-West Virginia CBS 3.9 N/A
12-28-2009 Music City
Clemson-Kentucky ESPN N/A N/A


Brian: The Orange, Peach and Emerald Bowls saw increases in ratings and viewership year-over-year. The Champs Sports and Gator Bowls saw ratings decline, and the Meineke Car Care Bowl’s ratings were flat but had a slight increase in total number of viewers. I couldn't find available ratings for the Music City Bowl between Clemson and Kentucky (if you have them, kindly leave them in the comments section). What do you make of the ratings for this year’s ACC bowl games?

Jeff: Heading into bowl season, I thought all of the bowls got good matchups and should do well relative to last year and an average year for each individual bowl with the possible exception of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and definitely with the exception of the Orange Bowl. I'm glad to see that my thoughts became a reality but I do not think anything significant enough happened for there to be any effect on ACC bowls in the future.

Brian: The Orlando Sentinel writes that since the BCS expanded to 5 games in 2007, the Orange Bowl has been the biggest loser. The Orange Bowl has produced some of the most uninteresting and unattractive BCS matchups of the last four season. I can’t say I disagree with them.

2007: No. 6 Louisville beats No. 14 Wake Forest 24-13
2008: No. 8 Kansas beats No. 3 Virginia Tech 24-21
2009: No. 19 Virginia Tech beats No. 12 Cincinnati 20-7
2010: No. 10 Iowa beats No. 9 Georgia Tech 24-14

These matchups have been a ratings disaster for Fox and the BCS. This year’s 24-14 Iowa victory over Georgia Tech drew a 6.8 rating, the second lowest-rated BCS bowl of all time. This year’s Orange Bowl was only outdone by last year’s Orange Bowl, where Virginia Tech-Cincinnati drew a rating of 5.41. Last year’s game was the worst rating of any BCS game since the system began in 1999.

The Orange Bowl can lay claim to four of the five worst ratings in the history of the BCS. The other two include the 2007 Orange Bowl (7.0) and the 2008 Orange Bowl (7.4). Given the extremely poor ratings and the lack of marquee matchups over the last four years, are you happy with the current arrangement whereby the ACC Champion is tied into the Orange Bowl? Alternatively, would you have the ACC Champion eligible for the Sugar, Fiesta or Orange Bowl every year like the Big East champion?

Jeff: As a fan who hopes to go to the Orange Bowl someday I am happy that the ACC is tied in with a bowl and that it is the bowl in Miami. But if I am just looking for better TV matchups, I am not happy with the ACC being tied into the Orange Bowl. With the other team not set in the Orange Bowl, the only chance of getting a conference champion is getting the Big East conference champ. That is nothing to get excited over and that is exactly what produced the worst-ever ratings for a BCS game in 2009. If the ACC team doesn't play the Big East champ, then they're going to get a team that did not win their conference (since the Pac-10 and Big Ten champs are tied to the Rose Bowl, Big 12 to the Fiesta and the SEC champ to the Sugar). With the current system, I don't know if Orange Bowl ratings will improve anytime soon relative to the other BCS games. Cutting ties with the Orange and having the ACC Champ eligible to be picked up by the Fiesta Bowl is not the solution either. The Orange Bowl needs to just make some better selections for the ACC's opponents. The BCS Bowls rotate so the Orange Bowl only has the last pick of at-large teams once every four years.

Brian: You're right. The Fiesta Bowl might not be the answer. But you have to think the ACC champion would be amped up to play the SEC Champion (that is, if they stop winning National Championships) in the Sugar Bowl given our conference's love affair with comparing ourselves to the SEC. 

I don't think better selections by the Orange Bowl or the rotating selection order is the cause of the problem though. The Orange Bowl has gotten first selection twice in the last four years and hasn't exactly produced compelling TV matchups. The Orange Bowl got first selection of BCS at-large teams this season (after the Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl replaced the SEC and Big 12 champs) and the Iowa-Georgia Tech matchup still wasn't a compelling TV draw. The Orange Bowl also had first selection of at-larges in 2008, and the Virginia Tech-Kansas matchup produced similarly poor ratings.

As you mentioned Jeff, it doesn't look like it's going to get any better for the Orange Bowl either. Over the next four years, the Orange Bowl gets first selection of at-large teams only once and picks last in both 2012 and 2013:

January 2011 games: Sugar, Orange, Fiesta
January 2012 games: Fiesta, Sugar, Orange
January 2013 games: Fiesta, Sugar, Orange
January 2014 games: Orange, Sugar, Fiesta

Given that the last BCS bowl selection has gone to either the Big East champ (Cincinnati in 2009 Orange Bowl and 2010 Sugar Bowl) or a non-AQ school (Boise State in 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Hawaii in 2008 Sugar Bowl), the ACC champ is probably looking at a matchup with either the Big East champ or a BCS buster at least 2 of the next 4 years. Unless that Big East champ is West Virginia or Pittsburgh, the Orange Bowl is likely on track to set another ratings all-time low (or two) over the next four years.

It's clear that the Orange Bowl has suffered the most in terms of interest and matchups since the BCS expanded in 2007 and this trend shows no signs of stopping. The only hope for the conference is that they finally breakthrough one of these years and send a second team to the BCS. Otherwise, the ACC champ will continue to be rewarded with a trip to Miami against an opponent no one cares to watch. And that's a shame.