College Football Playoff to reevaluate semifinals on New Year’s Eve

Executive director Bill Hancock and the College Football Playoff will reevaluate playing semifinal games on New Year’s Eve. (File/Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

HOOVER, Ala. — The College Football Playoff will reevaluate the presence of its semifinals on New Year’s Eve, after both games suffered precipitous drops in television ratings last season.

Ratings for the CFP semifinals this past season dropped 38 and 44 percent over the year before, when both were held on New Year’s Day. The semifinals are back on New Year’s Eve once again this season.

“We will be looking at that,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said Monday at SEC Media Days. “… We pledged after this year’s games that we will be looking at the semifinal schedule and will continue to do that. We don’t feel any rush to make a decision now, tomorrow, or anytime in the relatively near future.”

Last season’s semifinals included Clemson’s 37-17 victory over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and Alabama’s 38-0 victory over Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. The games drew ratings of 9.1 and 9.6, respectively, down from 14.8 and 15.2 in the semifinals the year before.

“We know we face the challenge with New Year’s Eve. We also know that we face the challenge with the games not being as competitive as they were before,” said Hancock, who noted CFP schedules for this year and next have already been set.

“We may have had a bit of a sophomore slump with the New Year’s Eve matter. I don’t know. But certainly the date was a factor. I feel fortunate that we have time to make the right decision on this, and we will take our time, and we’ll make a decision.”

Vanderbilt named Kyle Shurmur as starting quarterback, head coach Derek Mason said Monday. The sophomore started five games at the end of last season, winning two of them, and bringing some needed stability to what had been a revolving door of a position. The Commodores open the season against South Carolina on Sept. 1.

“I named Kyle Shurmur the starter. That’s where we are. He showed great character and leadership in the offseason. He has been pushed by guys behind him,” Mason said.

For the first time since 1984, the SEC has no programs on NCAA probation. But with Mississippi football and Missouri men’s basketball both under investigation, commissioner Greg Sankey said more work remains to be done.

“As we move forward together, we can’t have any more of those issues arise,” Sankey said in an address that kicked off the week.

“The central thought must be, must be, we never have a team return a championship trophy, never vacate any wins and never have one of our teams precluded from postseason competition because we either can’t follow the NCAA’s rules or can’t meet the expectations for academic success. We have made enormous progress.”

Sankey’s predecessor, Mike Slive, cleaned up a league that was once fraught with NCAA violations. But the spate of recent transgressions led one reporter to ask Sankey if the league had an image problem.

“We may be talking about one or two or three individuals and their misbehavior,” Sankey said. “I don’t think that attaches properly to the entire conference. The body of work of this conference far outweighs those problems, yet we are attentive to those realities. We understand when the issues arise, we need to even be more attentive.”

The South Carolina football media guide released Monday included three walk-ons from the Lowcountry: offensive lineman Chandler Farrell from Summerville, quarterback Bailey Hart from Wando and wide receiver T.J. Smith of Fort Dorchester, a transfer from Division II Concord University in West Virginia.

Farrell, a Shrine Bowl selection, played on the same Green Wave line as Gamecocks sophomore Zack Bailey. His father, Kenny, played at USC from 1990-92. Hart was two-time all-region at Wando. Smith, who will sit out this season under transfer rules, caught 39 passes for 548 yards and six touchdowns last year as a sophomore at Concord.

The absence of former South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, whose Media Days session always ranked among the most colorful of the week, was noted in Sankey’s introductory remarks.

“We will miss Steve’s unique football genius,” the commissioner said, “and you in the media will miss the entertaining quotes he offered annually.” The feeling seemed to be mutual — Spurrier on Monday morning tweeted “Gonna miss ya!” along with the 2016 Media Days logo.