From the moment the “Champions” Bowl was announced over the summer, media attention has been focused on two cities in terms of host sites: Arlington, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia. Arlington because Jerry Jones has a huge stadium and deep pockets. Atlanta because, well, because Atlanta bids on anything and everything the SEC is involved in and it’s hosted every major sporting event from the Super Bowl to the Final Four to the dadgum Olympics.
Even when news broke that 10 cities had been asked to bid on the game, most of the focus continued to fall on Arlington and Atlanta.
But if ESPN’s Brett McMurphy is correct, the SEC and Big XII’s plan to turn bidding for the “Champions” Bowl into a 10-city race has failed. Instead, it’s looking like a two-city race as most initially expected.
Only Atlanta isn’t one of the two locales leading the pack. New Orleans is. (Amen.)
According to McMurphy’s report, because Arlington and New Orleans are such prohibitive favorites to land the “Champions” Bowl, “as many as seven of the 10 cities that received a request for a proposal may not bid on the bowl” at all. The third city to go ahead and bid on the thing? Atlanta. Of course.
We suggested last week — when word leaked that 10 cities were in the running — that the SEC/Big XII were simply trying to drive up the price of the game by inviting more bidders into the auction, if you will. The conferences asked the three cities already mentioned as well as Houston, Jacksonville, Nashville, Orlando, Phoenix (Glendale), San Antonio and Tampa to bid to host the game. If the game were to rotate from city to city, then a metro area like Phoenix might have a shot. But if the game is going to be a one-city-every-year event, then Glendale would seemingly have no real shot at landing the contest. Which city leaders there apparently realize.
McMurphy states that Phoenix, Nashville and Tampa have already decided not to bid on the “Champions” Bowl. The remaining four towns — Houston, Jacksonville, Orlando and San Antonio — are all still deciding whether to get involved or not, though “sources said most of the ‘four’ undecided cities likely won’t submit a bid because of the reality ‘that it’s a two-horse race.’”
On the positive side, we’re getting a better idea of what the “Champions” Bowl is expected to become… one bowl game. With requests for bids going out to 10 cities, there was much speculation that the leagues might simply rotate their game on a yearly basis as was initially expected when the game was announced. The SEC and the Big XII will be keeping all the TV and title sponsor cash — according to the leagues — so why not just put the game up for bid each year like a conference tournament, a Super Bowl or a Final Four? That was the first stated plan. But then came the new playoff system which will launch in 2014 along with the “Champions” Bowl. Waters were muddied.
We spoke last week to an SEC source who told this website that the game was “still finding its legs.” Translation: We’ll do whatever brings in the most cash, whether that’s one site or different sites every year. But now it sounds like the options are narrowing for the SEC and Big XII. If Atlanta is truly out, then the leagues must hope that Arlington and New Orleans throw down mondo cash in a head-to-head bidding war over who’s to become the annual host of the game (meaning the “Champions” Bowl would become the Cotton or Sugar Bowl in name).
Atlanta — for the record — should be out of the mix. Not that it’s not a great city, but the SEC Championship Game is already held there. Asking SEC fans to go to the same place twice in a month is a bit much. And having Big XII teams play in the very heart of the SEC wouldn’t appear to be very fair, either.
Arlington has the cash, but it’s fast becoming the Atlanta of the Big XII. The old Big Eight members of the Big XII have said for years that their league has been taken over by all things Texas. Well, if the Big XII has set up shop in the Metroplex, why would the SEC be any more interested in going there than the Big XII is in going to Atlanta?
Cash, of course.
But here’s hoping the leagues do what makes the most sense. If the game can’t/won’t be rotated between the two cities — which we would be fine with, by the way — then it should land in New Orleans permanently. Yes, LSU is nearby. But NOLA and Houston are the most centrally located venues for the game. St. Louis (if it had a bowl game) and Memphis (if it weren’t viewed so unfavorably by so many) would make sense as well. But the Big Easy trumps all of those cities when it comes to tourism infrastructure and experience hosting major, major sporting events.
If it’s a two-horse race between Arlington and New Orleans and there’s room for only one of them in the winner’s circle, here’s more hoping/wishing/praying that the latter edges the former at the wire.
But it’ll all be decided by cash. And that would mean Arlington is still probably in the lead. Even if it is the Big XII’s version of Atlanta.