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The Big 12 and ESPN celebrate BYU-Baylor TV ratings

The game drew the most late-Saturday football viewers to ESPN in six years.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Keanu Hill (1) celebrates after Brigham Young wide receiver Chase Roberts (27) scores a touchdown for the Cougars, in football action between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Baylor Bears at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.

Despite the fact that Saturday’s BYU-Baylor football game didn’t end until after 2 a.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, 2.4 million people tuned in to watch the Cougars beat the defending Big 12 champions.

That is, according to ESPN, the biggest audience for any of its late-night Saturday college football games since 2016. And that’s good news for the Big 12, which BYU will join next season. “Our future is bright,” the league office tweeted.

Television ratings tend to decline the later it gets, because fewer viewers are awake to watch.

The last time ESPN had numbers like this on a Saturday night was a Texas-at-Cal game in 2016. Which makes this news even sweeter for the Big 12, which is losing Texas to the SEC and competing with Cal and the rest of the Pac-12 for future TV contracts.

And there was more good news for the Big 12. Friday’s matchup between future league member Central Florida and Louisville of the ACC drew 1.8 million viewers on ESPN2, that channel’s most-watched regular-season game since 2017 and most-watched Friday-night game since 2013.

The bad news for the Big 12 is the impending loss of Texas, which is scheduled to join the SEC in 2025. The Longhorns’ one-point loss to Alabama averaged about 10.6 million viewers on Saturday, the fourth-most watched regular-season college football game ever to air on Fox.

No viewership numbers are available for Saturday’s Utah-Southern Utah game. It aired on the Pac-12 Network, which does not release ratings information.