Busting Brackets

NCAA Basketball: Will realignment ruin college basketball?

Connecticut Huskies head coach Dan Hurley celebrates after defeating the Purdue Boilermakers in the
Connecticut Huskies head coach Dan Hurley celebrates after defeating the Purdue Boilermakers in the / Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY
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College hoops needs to pull in better regular-season ratings

The biggest obstacle to overcome by far is viewership. It's no joke when they say America's pastime is now football. This country eats up anything football-related at an astonishing rate, and it's not slowing down anytime soon. Over the past decade or so college basketball has tried to increase early-season viewership with more high-quality matchups in November and December, but that hasn't made much of a difference.

Even though viewership in March has been on the rise. Women's basketball has had historic viewership numbers thanks in part to Caitlin Clark and UConn's repeat averaged 14.8 million eyeballs. It's the months before that that are going to get advertisers' attention. When I say this is the sport's toughest hill to climb it's not an understatement.

The Champion's Classic, arguably college basketball's marquee early-season event pulled in 1.52 million viewers but was outdrawn by a show that revealed the latest college football playoff rankings, in November that drew 1.73 million viewers, not even a game, a rankings show. Basketball’s numbers are more comparable to football when broken down by average per hour over the length of the game.

The college football title game brought in roughly 7.1 million viewers per hour and UConn’s win brought in 6.8 million. Another area the two sports are close in is their current television contracts. Football’s recent extension with ESPN/ABC that runs through 2031 is worth $1.3 billion per year, and basketball’s contract with CBS and Turner Sports that expires in 2032 is worth $900 million per season. We all get stuck in our hoops cocoon about how great the sport is, but from a national perspective and advertising dollars perspective, it has work to do and that begins with improving the numbers from November through January.