Tradition means a lot in college football.
But these days, when it comes to landing a future championship game, the bottom line counts for more.
That’s why, while emphasizing New Orleans’ longtime involvement with games that decided national championships — 23 in the past 80 years — local officials said they have done everything in their power to make the bid for either the 2019 or 2020 College Football Playoff championship game as financially attractive as possible as well.
The sites for those two years, along with the 2018 game, will be announced Wednesday.
Houston; San Antonio; Detroit; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Santa Clara, California, site of the San Francisco 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium, are the other bidders for 2019. Minneapolis replaces Detroit among the 2020 contenders.
Miami, Atlanta, Houston and Santa Clara are contending for the 2018 game. New Orleans could not bid because it is the site of a CFP semifinal that season.
But even being a four-time BCS title-game host and a semifinal site four times in the current 12-year CFP agreement, plus a Jan. 1 prime time game, seems to matter little in this case.
It certainly didn’t two years ago, when New Orleans failed in bids for the 2016 and 2017 games — much to the chagrin, if not surprise, of those involved.
“We would hope that tradition would count for something,” said Jeff Hundley, chairman of the New Orleans College Football Championship Committee. “But we also know it’s a new day and age.”
For proof, look no further than the fact that Hundley’s day job is chief operating officer of the Allstate Sugar Bowl, which back in the BCS days was the sole local entity involved, and the four championship games played in New Orleans over the BCS’ 16-year run were part of the original contact.
But under the CFP setup, cities, rather than the bowls, are the bidding entities, and they don’t have to be among the six CFP bowl sites — such as Minneapolis. But Pasadena, California, site of the Rose Bowl, isn’t bidding.
In New Orleans’ case, while the Sugar Bowl is a prominent player, the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and other organizations are involved, much as is the case for Final Four bids.
“The ability to open up the possibility of playing our championship games in new places in different parts of the country was important,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said. “And we have some very good bids from nine terrific cities. The history of the cities that were in the BCS is certainly appreciated, but this is a very rigorous competition.”
That’s not surprising, considering the reception the CFP has gotten after years of arguments about implementing a playoff beyond the two-team BCS.
“It’s been the most significant change in college football in my lifetime,” Hancock said. “Just when we thought the regular season could not be more compelling and fans more excited, four teams competing for the championship has added to the electricity.”
And it has made the title game — played in Dallas last year and set for Glendale, Arizona, this season and Tampa, Florida, next year — an event on the level with the Super Bowl and Final Four that cities desire.
But it’s also an expensive one to land. The bidding cities reportedly are having to put up as much as $18 million, with little in expected return.
The local bid is assisted by a bill passed earlier this year by the Louisiana legislature to help fund attracting major sporting events in the state through anticipated sales tax revenues. Without it, Hundley said, the Sugar Bowl could not have afforded to have put up the entire sum, as it had in the past.
“We realized after the last time that we had to check off as many of the boxes as possible,” Hundley said. “The other cities were simply throwing more money at them than we were, and we had to get into the ballpark to have a shot at it. So we sharpened our pencils and got some other people involved. We had to, because they upped the ante on us.”
Also, Hundley added, the disappointment of the last time around wounded the pride of those involved in landing major sporting events for the city, especially since it was followed by failed bids for the Super Bowl and Final Four.
Win or lose, this could be the only CFP bid by New Orleans.
“The Sugar Bowl is at a crossroads,” he said. “We’ve done this so well for a very long time and want very much to continue to do so.
“But we’re also seeing things through new eyes, and there’s so much new energy in the city now. When push comes to shove, I’m optimistic that we’re going to carry the day.”