The stated goal of the Bowl Championship Series is "to match the two top-rated teams in a national championship game and to create exciting and competitive matchups between eight other highly regarded teams in four other games."
But the BCS fell far short of that goal this past postseason, with a sharp decline in viewership of four of its five games, according to Nielsen Media Research. The BCS was not alone as viewership of all bowl games took a significant pounding.
BCS games held down five of the top six spots of most-watched postseason games, but only the Orange Bowl saw a slight increase (6%) in viewership. The declines were dramatic, with the Sugar Bowl experiencing a drop of 25%, followed by the Rose (20%), BCS title (17%) and Fiesta (8%).
Viewership of all bowls declined by 12% with a 3.6 average rating, the lowest in the 10-year history of the BCS, according to Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News.
We've charted all the data for careful examination. To get a closer look, click a chart to enlarge it.
This chart shows the 2007 ratings for each of the 32 games. The Insight and Texas bowls — games with the lowest viewership — were broadcast by the NFL Network, which has a limited subscriber base.
Here's a look at the 2006 ratings, when the BCS lineup held down the top five spots. The Alamo Bowl between Texas and Iowa clocked a 6.0 to become the most-watched bowl game ever on ESPN.
Here's a look at the difference in percentage from 2006 to 2007. As you can see, 21 of the 32 games had lower ratings in 2007, with many of the ratings being significantly lower. The biggest loser was the Texas Bowl between Texas Christian and Houston. The biggest winner was the Capital One between Michigan and Florida.
The Southeastern Conference had the most total viewers. It also had the most teams in postseason play with nine. The number of teams each league had in postseason play are in parenthesis.
Games involving Big Ten teams earned the highest average rating. These figures were calculated by adding the ratings for games involving teams from each league and then dividing by the number of teams in postseason play. An example would be the previously mentioned Capital One, which had a rating of 9.1. The Big Ten would get a 9.1 (as would the SEC). The eight games involving Big Ten teams totaled 45.7, making the average viewership 5.7.
As reference, here are the bowl game matchups and broadcasting partner.
BCS Title: Louisiana State-Ohio State (Fox)
Rose: USC-Illinois (ABC)
Capital One: Michigan-Florida (ABC)
Fiesta: West Virginia-Oklahoma (Fox)
Orange: Kansas-Virginia Tech (Fox)
Sugar: Georgia-Hawaii (Fox)
Chick-fil-A: Auburn-Clemson (ESPN)
Holiday: Texas-Arizona State (ESPN)
Cotton: Missouri-Arkansas (Fox)
Liberty: Mississippi State-Central Florida (ESPN)
Music City: Kentucky-Florida State (ESPN)
Champs Sports: Boston College-Michigan State (ESPN)
Meineke Car Care: Wake Forest-Connecticut (ESPN)
Emerald: Oregon State-Maryland (ESPN)
Outback: Tennessee-Wisconsin (ESPN)
Gator: Texas Tech-Virginia (CBS)
Alamo: Penn State-Texas A&M (ESPN)
Motor City: Purdue-Central Michigan (ESPN)
Sun: Oregon-South Florida (CBS)
Las Vegas: Brigham Young-UCLA (ESPN)
Papajohns.com: Cincinnati-Southern Mississippi (ESPN2)
Armed Forces: California-Air Force (ESPN)
Poinsettia: Utah-Navy (ESPN)
New Mexico: New Mexico-Nevada (ESPN)
Independence: Alabama-Colorado (ESPN)
New Orleans: Florida Atlantic-Memphis (ESPN2)
International: Rutgers-Ball State (ESPN2)
Hawaii: East Carolina-Boise State (ESPN)
GMAC: Tulsa-Bowling Green (ESPN)
Humanitarian: Fresno State-Georgia Tech (ESPN2)
Insight: Oklahoma State-Indiana (NFL Network)
Texas: Texas Christian-Houston (NFL Network)
Source: Nielsen Media Research