Bahamas Bowl Should Have Been an ABC Lead-In For Week 18 Saturday NFL Games

ESPN missed a golden opportunity to use one of college football’s most unique bowls as a lead-in to their big January NFL jamboree.

The Bahamas Bowl will occur in January for the first time ever.
Source: ESPN

After much anticipation, Bowl Season released the 2024-25 bowl schedule. The 12-team Playoff created a more dispersed postseason, spanning from December 14th (alongside Army-Navy) to Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 20th, when the College Football Playoff National Championship commences. The non-Playoff affiliated bowls create a steady crescendo to the semifinals and then final, with the final non-CFP Bowl taking place on January 4th.

Taking that unorthodox date is a bowl usually kicking off College Football's postseason festival, the Bahamas Bowl. The Bahamas Bowl will kick off at 11 AM ET on January 4th, capping the longest FBS postseason ever. The game is a standalone affair on a Saturday, but for whatever reason, the ESPN family of networks kept this game off of ABC.

Saturday is the NFL day for ESPN and ABC. ESPN closes its Monday Night Football slate grandly with a doubleheader, a tradition started in 2021. The aptly named Doubleheader Saturday airs NFL games with playoff implications at 4:30 PM ET and 8 PM ET on ABC. Surprisingly, the doubleheader has never had a sports lead-in.

The Bahamas Bowl could fit that niche easily. A Noon ET start allows plenty of time for Monday Night Countdown to air on ABC. Even if ABC needed to accommodate Monday Night Countdown, they could shift the kickoff to the Bahamas Bowl to 11:30 AM ET.

Using a bowl game as a lead-in allows ABC to draw diehard college football fans indifferent to the NFL. ESPN uses this tactic for the first Monday of Bowl Season, with an ESPN-owned bowl (typically the Myrtle Beach or Famous Idaho Potato Bowl) leading into Monday Night Countdown. Furthermore, ABC did not begin airing NHL games this season until the second Saturday of January. The decision to not air

With CBS and Fox airing college basketball in the noon timeslot, ESPN's refusal to air the Bahamas Bowl is a white flag of surrender to its competitors. A bowl game, even one exclusively involving Group of Five teams, would easily win the ratings game against CBS and Fox's college basketball games.

For instance, CBS' noon college basketball game on the first Saturday of January 2024 between South Carolina and Mississippi State drew 947,000 viewers, while FOX's competing St. John's-Villanova game drew a minuscule 444,000 viewers. The Cure Bowl's ABC broadcast ratings dwarve these two figures, drawing 1.95 million viewers on the first Saturday of Bowl Season for the Miami (Ohio)-Appalachian State matchup.

ESPN's decision to not air the Bahamas Bowl on ABC is careless. ABC is giving up valuable viewers while providing little fanfare for their big ticket event on the first Saturday of January. The MAC and Conference USA lose opportunities to gain casual college and pro football fans for no apparent reason. Low ratings for this year's Bahamas Bowl on ESPN may be the forcing function that pushes the Bahamas Bowl to ABC for the foreseeable future.