College football is a common sporting event to watch on Saturdays part of the year. Why then, is the college football championship played on Monday?
Why Are College Football Championships On Mondays?
The college football championship is played on Monday because the timing tends to be better for getting the highest TV ratings possible. A Monday game can also make travel a bit easier for fans headed to the game as Sunday is a more heavily traveled day.
We’ll examine how the college football championship works, and why college football officials change game day for the playoffs and the national title game.
You probably haven’t heard of this one. In 1961, Congress passed the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961. This law effectively protected college football’s audience by forbidding the NFL from broadcasting games on Saturdays for most of the football season.
People ask this question often on the simple basis that most college football games happen on Saturdays during the fall and the rest of winter.
Many college football games are played on Saturday in part for the same reason why the college football championship game is played on another day, and much of the answer is competition.
So you might wonder what caused this law to need to exist. There are a couple of reasons. The NFL Commissioner wanted to avoid having each team sign their own deal for a TV market because small market teams would have a harder time getting a good contract, which might hurt them and make them less competitive in the long run.
At the time, the NFL was also recognized as a potential behemoth that would take over national TV quickly and spell the end of televised college sports.
As Congress predicted, the National Football League is very popular on TV. In fact, on average, NFL games take up a disproportionate number of spots in the top 50 most-viewed TV programs per year, with the Super Bowl and the rest of the playoffs often reaching the top of the list.
During the regular college football season, college football isn’t played on Sundays because the NFL is legally allowed to broadcast games for that part of the year, usually from around noon to near midnight.
The NFL has also been having teams play on Monday night for decades and more recently started a Thursday night football schedule.
There are many viewers who could opt to watch either game – or in some cases, one or the other.
The two organizations don’t want to risk having important games happen when an obvious competitor is potentially taking the attention of their main audience.
NFL and College Football schedules
Both the college football schedule and the NFL schedules have changed a bit in recent years. The NFL has added an extra game to the schedule while college football added a multi-week playoff schedule earlier.
Before this change occurred, you could have college football games on the same weekend as the NFL players, which usually occurred on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
The college football even had a sweet spot – they would play their bowl games (basically the equivalent to the playoffs, but more of them) on New Year’s Day, which didn’t tend to interfere with the NFL and was a day that nearly everyone has a day off.
The college football championship is now played in the second week of January, usually around January 9th or 10th, which puts it against the final week of the NFL regular season, when games that could have playoff impact happen on Saturday and Sunday.
Since the NFL regular season is over by Sunday night, Monday is a good day to finish the college football championships.
Money and TV
The NFL and college football make a fair amount of money off TV contracts secured through major networks like ABC, NBC, Amazon, ESPN, and FOX. The networks themselves have a fair amount of interest in keeping their football ratings as high as possible in the interest of asking for more money to run an ad during a football game.
If the NFL regular season and college football championships were played on the same day- and especially at the same time, they would be competing for ad dollars and air time.
In addition, with the regular NFL season ending the day before the college football championship, football watchers are used to watching something for Monday Night Football. Why not fulfill their routine of watching football on Monday night by making it available?
Football fan travels
While it is possible that student travels have an impact on when the NCAA schedules the national championships, it is not likely the main reason. Some believe that the NCAA may have chosen Monday because students could drive to the national championship stadium on Sunday and come back by Tuesday morning depending on their distance – potentially to return to class as some schools start as early as the second week of January.
However, knowing the business of the NCAA and NFL, we know that this probably isn’t a big factor.
- A law drafted in 1961 is part of the reason the college football championship is in Monday
- College football games are normally broadcast on Saturday, which is protected by that law for most of the year
- While the college football championship could be played on Sunday, the NCAA doesn’t want to compete with the rather powerful NFL
- Monday becomes the best choice because the NFL begins to play on Saturday shortly before the end of both seasons.