Americans love tradition.
Every year on holidays and special occasions, we do the same things as the year before. On Thanksgiving, we watch the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions every year, even when they are terrible. On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, we watch college football. And every year in March, we spend the second or third weekend watching the beginning of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
And that love of tradition is why college sports (football and basketball, at least) still exist as a major part of American society. We identify with our school’s teams because they represent a part of us—and post-graduation, we continue that link because our love for our alma maters remains ingrained.
So why were 2011 bowls at their lowest ratings in the BCS era? And why are college basketball’s attendance numbers at a five year low while simultaneously getting lower ratings for an upset of the nation’s top-ranked team than the New Mexico Bowl?
Because there are structural issues in both sports that lead to their declining popularity, as well as—in the case of basketball—gameplay issues that make games tedious.