After more than 40 years as a major player in hosting college football’s national championship game, New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl may be opting out of the process for the foreseeable future.
Sugar Bowl Chief Executive Officer Paul Hoolahan on Tuesday confirmed an ESPN report that New Orleans is among seven potential host sites for the 2019 and 2020 College Football Playoff championship games that are undecided about submitting a bid by the May deadline. Incoming Sugar Bowl president T. Carey Wicker last week said that a decision was “seriously under review.”
The 2018 title game also is being awarded later this year, but since the Sugar Bowl is a site of the CFP semifinal that year, New Orleans is ineligible to bid.
“We’re being very prudent about evaluating our options,” Hoolahan said. “Everyone is concerned about getting our return on our investment.
“I think every city is going to have to be very selective in this decision going forward.”
The CFP is looking for a reported $16-18 million from the bidding cities — almost three times the amount required under the old BCS system and substantially more than Phoenix and Tampa, Florida, bid for the 2016 and 2017 games, which went to those cities ahead of New Orleans.
Nonetheless, Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; South Florida (Miami); Minneapolis; San Antonio; and Santa Clara, California, are definitely bidding according to the report.
The report added that cities on the fence besides New Orleans are Houston, Indianapolis, New Jersey/New York, Orlando, Pasadena, California, home of the Rose Bowl and Arlington, Texas, which was the site of this year’s inaugural championship game.
CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock could not be reached for comment about the report. But he earlier had talked about how opening the event would mean that “cities are going to have to bring their ‘A’ games” from now on.
Before, the games had rotated among New Orleans, Miami, Pasadena and Phoenix during the 16 years of the BCS.
But the high cost — rivaling a Super Bowl bid, but with fewer perks for the host cities such as the number of high-end hotel days — is a possible deterrent, especially for New Orleans and Pasadena, which already have four guaranteed semifinals in the current 12-year CFP contact plus. New Orleans and Pasadena also their own respective exclusive bowl deals — the Sugar with the Southeastern Conference and Big 12, and the Rose with the Big Ten and Pac 12 — in non-semifinal years.
Hoolahan said bidding or not bidding on the championship games would not affect the Sugar Bowl’s contracts for either the semifinals or with the Big 12-vs.-SEC games, which will feature the leagues’ top non-playoff teams from those seasons.
“What matters most to us now are those semifinal games and our relationship with the Big 12 and the SEC,” he said.
Hoolahan also said he understood why cities which have not been part of the championship rotation are so anxious to get involved. That was the case with Tampa in landing the 2017 game, although that city is passing on hosting again so soon.
“They are thinking about the prestige it brings,” he said. “If you can grab one now, then maybe next time around you can get another one.”
If New Orleans does bid, the emphasis will be on the 2020 game. Hoolahan said there are hotel availability issues in 2019, but they possibly could be worked out.
Unlike local BCS bids, which were done in the name of the Sugar Bowl, CFP bids are done by cities, much like the Super Bowl and Final Four.
For New Orleans, that means the decision on a bid also involves the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation; the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau; SMG, which manages the Mercedes-Benz Superdome; and the Saints, along with input from the city and state.
“One thing this has done has gotten us all working closely together,” Hoolahan said. “We’ve gone to a whole new level of cooperation.
“That means we are all moving forward together.”