Party.No1.2016

No. 1 — Gov. John Bel Edwards and wife Donna welcomed several thousand guests to his Inaugural Ball Jan. 11 at Celtic Studios. Spotlights filled the sky and a red carpet welcomed the who's who of the political and business worlds in celebrating a new page in Louisiana's history.

Football has won out over politics in Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ inauguration festivities, with the newly-reelected governor scrapping the traditional inaugural ball because the college football national championship game is slated for the same day in New Orleans.

The inauguration of statewide officials will take place Monday, Jan. 13 at 11:30 a.m. on the steps of the state Capitol in Baton Rouge, Edwards’ campaign said Wednesday, and the governor and first lady will attend mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Baton Rouge before going to the swearing-in ceremony.

But because the national championship football game is set for that evening at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, the campaign said the governor will not hold the customary inaugural ball. Instead, tentative plans are being made for a “governor’s ball” in New Orleans late next year.

Upon being elected in 2016 as a rare Deep South Democratic governor, Edwards held an inaugural ball at Celtic Studios the same night as the inauguration ceremony.

The move this year is not the first time a governor has tried to accommodate a national championship game that intersects with the inauguration. In 2012, upon winning reelection, former Gov. Bobby Jindal held a ball the night before because LSU was playing Alabama in New Orleans in the Superdome on inauguration day.

Edwards expects LSU to be playing in the national championship game and will attend the game in a Superdome suite that Louisiana governors receive while in office, a spokeswoman confirmed. 

This year, a host of state lawmakers likely have tickets to the national championship game, which LSU has a better-than-normal chance of playing in. The host committee for the game, composed of leaders of the Allstate Sugar Bowl and Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, offered up each state lawmaker the coveted chance to buy two face-value endzone tickets each, at $600 a piece, earlier this fall, in what has become a well-used perk for state legislators over the years.

The website FiveThirtyEight gives LSU a 63% chance of making the playoff ahead of its conference championship showdown with Georgia this Saturday.

The New Orleans Saints are also slated for a divisional round home playoff game the weekend preceding the inauguration.

Edwards won reelection in a tightly-contested runoff Nov. 16, edging out Republican businessman Eddie Rispone, who had the backing of president Donald Trump. Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South.

New Orleans bid on the national championship game several years ago, and Sugar Bowl CEO Jeff Hundley, who also heads up the host committee for the championship game, said the committee will pay between $12 million and $18 million to put on the event. The host committee is led by the Sugar Bowl and the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.

The governor has a close relationship with LSU football coach Ed Orgeron, who endorsed the governor during his reelection campaign, and is a well-known fan of the New Orleans Saints and LSU, where he attended law school.

During the gubernatorial campaign that ended in November, Edwards’ campaign released videos that showed him throwing footballs with the LSU team, and the governor welcomed the team home at the airport after it beat archrival Alabama last month.

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com