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TV Ratings: The Canary in the Big 12 Coal Mine

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Success on the field doesn’t necessarily translate to success in drawing TV viewers

BYU v Texas Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

It’s been a crummy week – somebody broke into my car and stole my golf clubs – a capital offense if there every was one, and to fit my lousy mood I think it is time to once again beat a dead horse, AKA the Big 12’s long-term viability.

On the field the Big 12 is solid – two teams in the Top Ten (OU & W. Virginia) with #15 Texas and #16 Iowa State playing this week. That’s not the issue. The national perception of the league as a draw is. This is a top-heavy league with almost no middle-class when it comes to drawing viewer interest.

Take West Virginia. We know first hand how good they are. They play an exciting brand of offense, one that averages 41 points a game. And outside the league hardly anyone is watching. The Mountaineers have played on TV 9 times this season and the total viewership for all 9 games is 12,736,000.

Over 11,500,000 watched Alabama vs. LSU.

That 12,700,000 includes the 4,400,000 who watched the game against Texas a couple of weeks ago. That is at the heart of the problem for the league.

We are through 11 weeks of the season and eight of those have pretty much been dominated by intra-conference play. A look at the weekly ratings will quickly point out basic weakness or lack of depth in the Big 12.

Through these eight weeks only one time was a Big 12 game the most-watched contest of the week.

Can you guess what game it is? I bet you can.

Texas-OU had 5.6 million viewers week 6, with LSU-Florida next at 4.7 million. For the rest of the season the SEC has had the top-rated game four times, the Big 10 three.

But again the roots of the problem go deeper. Here is a look at the Big 12 games that drew the highest audiences each week and where they ranked. In week 4 TCU @ Texas was the most-watched Big 12 game at 2.9 million and it was 5th on the list.

In week 5 Baylor @ Oklahoma had 2.8 million viewers and it was 5th on the list for the week.

In week 7 Baylor @ Texas was seen by 1.8 million viewers and it was 9th on the weekly list.

In week 8 Oklahoma @ TCU (2.5 million) was 7th.

In week 9 Texas @ Oklahoma St. was 2nd with 3.5 million viewers. Next was Kansas St. @ Oklahoma at 10th.

In week 10 West Virginia @ Texas was third with Oklahoma @ Texas Tech at #7 with 3.1 million viewers.

Last week Oklahoma St. @ Oklahoma had 3.9 million (#4) while Texas @ Texas Tech drew 2.7 million (7th).

Notice a pattern anywhere? The most-watched Big 12 game not involving Texas or OU was the October 13th West Virginia @ Iowa St game. It drew 1.3 million viewers. That same day Nebraska @ Northwestern had 2.4 million watching.

The fact that Texas and Oklahoma are carrying the league when it comes to national exposure is no surprise. The idea of stealing teams from other Power 5 leagues is absurd and merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I do believe that things will get better because I have full faith in Chris Del Conte and others to find the best long-term home for our program.

Now if I can only find the SOB who stole my clubs.