WITH ALL THE discourse around realignment circling the college football landscape, Andy Staples of The Athletic put together some intriguing research looking at the TV viewership for all the Power Five schools outside the SEC, Big 10 and Notre Dame. He charted the amount of games between 2015-19 along with 2021 (leaving out 2020), for teams that had at least 1 million viewers. Guess how Washington State fared?
Staples also excluded any games against the likes of USC, UCLA, Oklahoma or Texas as all four are headed to the Big 10 and SEC respectively.
Unsurprisingly, Clemson is at the top with 34, primarily due to its exposure in prime time games and in the College Football Playoff. Following Clemson are Florida State, Washington, Oregon, Miami and Washington State.
Obviously, one of these things is unlike the other.
FSU and Miami are national brands, with decades of rich history featuring championships and more. Oregon has been one of the hottest commodities in college football for the better part of 15 years now, and UW played in three New Year’s Six games in that span. But then there is WSU, which boasts 21 games since 2015 with over 1 million viewers.
And it is important to note, bowl games were not factored in. So a lot of these were typical high-drama regular season tilts such as WSU vs. Stanford in 2016 or WSU vs. Oregon in 2018. The late time slot the Cougars often get for “Pac-12 After Dark” may in some cases have helped. At that hour, it is normally one of the only games on. So viewers in the East may be tuning in before they shut out the lights, while West Coast viewers have an understanding of what a game featuring the high-powered offense of Washington State tends to be like.
Why this all matters: it will almost certainly be used in a case for WSU to join a bigger conference, if it comes to that. WSU has gotten more viewership than the likes of Utah, Oklahoma State, Stanford and others. Not to mention, Utah and Stanford have both played in big-time games over the last few years, including major bowl games and Pac-12 Championships.
But it is also interesting that the likes of Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State, all who have been rumored to be in talks with the Big 12, do not hold a candle to WSU in this regard. Arizona has had just six games with over 1 million viewers and ASU is far behind at 13. Granted, Arizona’s selling point to join a mega conference will likely be hoops, but it is a compelling nonetheless stat.
The data suggests that despite its lack of a ‘national brand,’ Washington State has done a pretty darned good job getting eyes on it throughout the last several years. If TV revenue is indeed a big factor in the realignment talks playing out, it presents a strong case for WSU.
Staples’ full article can be found here