Playoff not interested in moving semis of New Year's Eve

The College Football Playoff is not interested in ESPN's suggestion to move next season's semifinals from New Year's Eve to Saturday, Jan. 2.

The Sports Business Journal first reported high-ranking ESPN executives had talked to College Football Playoff officials about switching the dates for the 2016 semifinals.

College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock and ESPN acknowledged having discussions about a one-time schedule shift in separate statements to The Associated Press on Monday.

''We understand and appreciate their interest in this,'' Hancock said about ESPN. ''The fact is that we have started a new tradition of back-to-back tripleheaders on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. We're not interested in changing for one year, then returning for the next 10. This event has been very well received and we are excited about the future and about enhancing the concept of a `holiday within a holiday' on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.''

The College Football Playoff semifinals are scheduled to be played on New Year's Eve eight times during a 12-year contract with ESPN.

The playoff debuted this past season with the semifinals on New Year's Day at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. The Rose Bowl kicked off at about 5:30 p.m. ET, and the Sugar Bowl soon after the first game was completed. The games drew record-breaking ratings for ESPN.

The Rose, and its conferences partners, the Big Ten and Pac-12, and Sugar, along with the Southeastern Conference and Big 12, have locked in those TV time slots for the length of the ESPN deal. So when the semifinals move to the four other bowls that make up the six-site playoff rotation, they will be played on New Year's Eve.

Next season's semifinals are scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 31, at the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl. The following weekend is the last of the NFL regular season, when the league plays all its games on Sunday, leaving Saturday relatively free.

''We completely support the New Year's scheduling connections for the College Football Playoff throughout our 12-year agreement,'' ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said. ''For the one year in 2016 when the calendar falls a certain way, the idea was to consider moving the games from Thursday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Jan. 2, to allow for a more accessible, fan-and participant-friendly experience for all. It's strictly a one-year concept.''

ESPN pays about $470 million a year for TV rights to the playoff.

The College Football Playoff is also facing the possibility of scheduling conflict for the championship game with the NFL if the league expands its playoffs and decides to play one of its extra wild-card games on Monday night.

The College Football Playoff national title game is scheduled to be played each season on Monday night at least a week after the semifinals.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is pushing for playoff expansion, though Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney told the AP last week he doesn't expect it to happen in 2015.

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