College basketball better in one semester

By Frank Gogola

For hardcore college basketball fans, the season started two months ago.

For the March Madness college basketball fan, the season will start in two months.

But for the average college basketball fan, the season started two weeks ago, when the college football bowl season ended.

College football trumps college basketball, both among the average athletic department — mainly for monetary purposes — and fans, who support their team through thick and thin. Let’s make no mistake about it.

According to data from the Department of Education, the average Division I-A college football team made a profit of $10.7 million in 2012. Meanwhile, the average D-I college basketball team brought in only $2.6 million in profit.

The data also shows that 39.1 percent of the total revenue brought in by Division I-A sports in 2012 came from football. On the other hand, men’s college basketball accounted for only 12.5 percent.

Among fans, college basketball has lost some of its luster because early season non-conference losses are not the biggest things, unlike in college football, where every game, especially a game late in the season when the two sports’ schedules overlap, is life or death. And the majority of fans will — and do — gravitate to college football.

But even when that once-a-year non-conference men’s college basketball matchup comes up, its numbers are dwarfed by those of college football.

For example, take the State Farm Champions Classic doubleheader, college basketball’s biggest non-conference event, which broadcast over ESPN on Nov. 12. The first game of the doubleheader, featuring No. 2 Michigan State and No. 1 Kentucky, averaged just more than four million viewers, the second-most viewers for a non-conference men’s college basketball game on ESPN, according to a Nov. 13 ESPN MediaZone news release.

The second game of the doubleheader between No. 5 Kansas — with freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins — and No. 4 Duke — with Jabari Parker, another freshman phenom — averaged just under three million viewers, according to the release.

But where do those numbers stack up against college football?

Of the 35 college football bowl games, 15 games averaged more viewers than the Michigan State vs. Kentucky game and 22 averaged more than the Kansas vs. Duke game, according to Sports Media Watch.

But if we stuck to the college football regular season, eight of the 15 most-viewed regular season college football games from this past season occurred in November or December, when college basketball plays its non-conference schedule and overlaps with college football.

Among those eight games, the lowest average was 7.3 million viewers and the highest average was 14.4 million viewers, according to a Dec. 19 article by Sports Business Daily.

So, why not move the start of the college basketball season to the day following the end of the college football season and make college basketball a one-semester sport, putting an end to the monetary and viewership competition between the two sports?

The main opposition I’ve heard when floating this idea past people is that the Madness won’t be in March; it would have to be in April or May, and the name wouldn’t fit. OK, so then change the name (although May Madness would meet the alliteration standards).

The other opposition I’ve heard is that college basketball would be pitted against the opening rounds of the NBA Playoffs.

Personally, I’m giving a college basketball tournament toward the end of the spring semester a better chance against the first few rounds of the NBA Playoffs than against the end of the college football regular season and its bowl games.