College football fans, especially college football fans in the Pac-12 and Big 12, had to put up with a lot of hot takes this offseason. Once UCLA and USC made their infamous realignment announcements, social media become a breeding ground for rumors, reports, hearsay and statistics about which programs “will” be moving to which conference.
One team that was on the outside of most of this speculation was Washington State. Observers looked at the Cougars and saw a school with a small stadium, in a remote location with a small to mid-size TV market and immediately wrote them off as a program that major conferences wouldn’t want.
Despite all of that, Washington State fans and staff have one major thing they can point to in order to prove the program’s value: people watch Washington State games on TV.
According to Stewart Mandel of The Athletic, Washington State averaged nearly 1.6 million viewers per game between 2015 and 2021 (excluding the shortened COVID year of 2020). Not including any teams on their way out of the conferences, that figure is good for fourth among the remaining teams in the Pac-12 and more than all of the holdovers in the Big 12.
It would be fair to assume that a lot of that interest came from the mystique of Mike Leach. Would viewers continue to watch a Washington State team without a larger-than-life character like Leach on the sideline? On Saturday, Washington State proved that those figures aren’t a fluke.
Most watched games, Week 2:— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) September 13, 2022
Alabama-Texas (FOX): 10.6M
Tennessee-Pitt (ABC): 4.5M
Kentucky-Florida (ESPN): 4.3M
Wazzu-Wisc (FOX): 3.9M
Stanford-USC (ABC): 3.0M
Marshall-ND (NBC): 2.5M
Baylor-BYU (ESPN): 2.4M
With 3.9 million viewers (and a 2.24 rating) the game wasn’t just the fourth-most viewed college football game of the day, it was the fifth-most viewed television program of the day overall across both broadcast and cable.
Obviously, the massive lead-in of Alabama and Texas (which is FOX’s fourth-highest rated regular season game ever) helped that number quite a bit, but that doesn’t discount that viewership number at all. The fans continue to tune in to watch Washington State play on a regular basis, and they do it in large numbers.
While that won’t mean much for the average fan or alum, they are especially helpful to one man in particular.
Follow the data…— Pat Chun (@pat_chun) September 14, 2022
Yet again @WSUCougarFB turns on sets! The strength of our #WAZZU brand continues to speaks for itself. #GoCougs https://t.co/Yy9LuP19xb
Washington State will host Colorado State this weekend on the Pac-12 Network, a TV channel that I’m pretty sure ten people subscribe to and everyone else watches on an app thanks to the shared Xfinity passwords of those ten people. They’ll have another chance in the national spotlight the next weekend, during week 4, when they host Oregon at 1 p.m. pacific on FOX, following the “Big Noon”* game between Maryland and #4 Michigan.
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Unnecessary rant that you can (and should) skip. Enjoy your day!
*Can I rant about the (bad) branding of FOX’s “Big Noon Saturday” for second? Listen, I get that the majority of Americans, more than 47%, live in the eastern time zone. I do. But, when you call your most popular game of the day “Big Noon,” you are branding it something that is factually incorrect for most of the country, or roughly 173 million people who live in the country’s other five time zones. It’s especially wild when you consider that most of these games are going to be either Big Ten or Big 12 games, the target audience of which will largely reside in the central time zone. I also hate the name of their “Big Noon Kickoff” pre-game show, a program that contains the word “noon” yet is not on at that time for any resident of the United States. That would be like a local news station calling their broadcast “Local News at Pre-6 O’Clock” and starting it at 5. I don’t get it.