The Bayou Classic moving from NBC to the NBC Sports Network after being on network television for the last 23 years has confounded many.
The annual matchup between traditional SWAC powers Grambling State and Southern has been the only HBCU football game televised on a major network.
Jarrett Carter over at HBCU Digest ponders why the Bayou Classic was moved to cable and how it will impact both schools and black college football as a whole.
The timing of the switch seems to be peculiar, to say the least. Southern has appeared in the SWAC Championship Game for two consecutive years, winning the conference title in 2013. After two horrendous seasons on and off the field, Grambling came within a game of reaching the championship with a 7-5 overall record. Indications are that the 2015 Bayou Classic, which in recent years has been an uneven matchup between the conference’s best and worst, would’ve been among the best played, and most well attended in the last ten years.
But the switch to cable and the short term extension signals trouble for the black college football super brand. Could it be ratings? Sports Media Watch reported in 2014 that more than 1 million viewers watched last year’s Bayou Classic.
More than 57,000 fans attended last year’s game, a jump of more than 15 percent in attendance from 2013 and 17,000 fans more than the 2012 edition.
Considering that the Bayou Classic broadcast is time secured by the schools, is the cable switch a more affordable option that frees up more funding for scholarships and revenue to the schools? Was it an effort to secure more viewership on digital platforms, which may boost ratings or viewing data? Or was it a condition of renewal forwarded by NBC?
Going to cable could either be the best thing for both schools or the worst. We shall see.