DESTIN, FLA. — New Orleans is looking to get back in the college football championship game business.
The city has submitted bids for the College Football Playoff championship games in 2019 and 2020, Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan confirmed Wednesday during the Southeastern Conference Spring Meeting.
CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock revealed the list of bid cities at a news conference.
For 2019, New Orleans will go up against Santa Clara, California; Charlotte, North Carolina; Detroit; Houston and San Antonio. Santa Clara is the site of the San Francisco 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium.
Santa Clara, Charlotte, Houston and San Antonio are also bidding for 2020, with Detroit being replaced on that bid list by Minneapolis.
Atlanta, Miami, Houston and Santa Clara will bid for the 2018 title game. New Orleans cannot bid that year because the Sugar Bowl is hosting a CFP semifinal. CFP rules prohibit cities from hosting semifinals and finals in the same year.
“We’re pleased with the number” of cities bidding, Hancock said. “It shows cities recognize the importance of the event.”
Hancock said he and other CFP officials will be visiting each of the nine bid cities over the coming months, then will make recommendations to the CFP Management Committee in October or November. The winning cities should be announced shortly thereafter.
The committee includes commissioners from the 10 CFP conferences and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.
Two years ago, New Orleans bid for the 2016 and 2017 championship games but lost out to Glendale, Arizona, and Tampa, Florida, respectively.
Part of the problem was an insufficient bid to host the championship game, estimated at approximately $18 million. Hoolahan said the Sugar Bowl could not afford to underwrite the entire bid.
Tuesday, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed legislation which says the state will pay up to 30 percent of the cost of bidding for a major sporting event from anticipated sales tax revenue.
“We’re indebted to the state for the new law that allows us to compete with these other cities,” Hoolahan said. “Now we’ll have the funding available to go forward.”
Under the old Bowl Championship Series format, New Orleans was guaranteed to host the BCS championship game every four years, rotating with the Rose, Orange and Fiesta bowls.
While New Orleans is guaranteed a CFP semifinal game in the Sugar Bowl every three years — the city hosted one of the two inaugural semifinals Jan. 1 — the CFP championship game is awarded on a bid basis like the Super Bowl or the Final Four.
Complicating the bid process for the CFP title game is the fact New Orleans has been invited to bid for the 2019 and 2020 Super Bowls.
NFL rules prohibit a city from hosting both games in the same year. Atlanta appears to be a frontrunner for the 2019 Super Bowl in its new stadium currently being built, possibly making 2019 a more likely year for New Orleans to land the CFP title game.
Hancock expressed a desire by the CFP to move the championship game around “to as many parts of the country as we can.”
He said bid cities will be judged by the following criteria:
Stadium (including fan amenities, backstage space and a minimum of 65,000 seats)
Availability of hotel rooms
Track record of hosting big events.
Hancock said the age of a city’s stadium will not be a factor. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome turns 40 this year, a possible factor in New Orleans’ recent failed bids for the Super Bowl and Final Four.
As for the College Football Playoff itself, Hancock said the CFP is committed to staying with four teams for the remaining 11 years of its initial 12-year contract.
“Four is the right number,” he said.
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, chairman of the CFP selection committee, said he anticipates no significant changes to the selection process other than two new members for this season.
Former Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson and Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt replaced former New Orleans Saints and Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning and former West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck.
Manning left the committee earlier this year citing health issues. Luck left West Virginia in December for a job with the NCAA.
Unlike last season, when the CFP semifinals were played New Year’s Day in the Sugar and Rose bowls, this season’s semifinals will be played New Year’s Eve in the Cotton and Orange bowls.
Kickoff times will be roughly 4 and 7 p.m. Central time. Hancock said a decision on which game will kick off when will be determined Dec. 6 when the semifinal teams are announced.
As for the possibility of losing some of its TV audience because the games will be on Dec. 31, Hancock said: “I believe this playoff will change the paradigm for New Year’s Eve.
“If you go to a party, there better be a TV there.”
Ted Lewis contributed
to this report.