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Report: Houston Puts In Highest Bid For “Champions” Bowl

Longtime national sportswriter Mark Blaudschun is reporting on his own blog that Houston — not Arlington, not New Orleans, not Atlanta — has offered up the biggest pile of cash for the right to host the SEC/Big XII’s new “Champions” Bowl. 

Unfortunately, there are still a lot more unknowns than knowns when it comes to the leagues’ new game, which will kick off at the end of the 2014 season.  Will the game be played in one city each year taking on the name of that city’s bowl?  Will the “Champions” Bowl rotate between cities as was once expected when the game was first announced pre-playoffs.  Now with a playoff on the horizon, will there be a way to lock in a bowl rotation for the “Champions” Bowl inside the overall rotation of games hosting the semifinals and finals?

Blaudschun cites “source familiar with the bidding process” as saying that Houston, Dallas (Arlington), and New Orleans made the three highest bids overall.  Atlanta and San Antonio had also planned to put in bids, but — apparently — their bids were lower.  At least according to Blaudschun.

As we’ve stated before, until the details of the playoff are worked out, it’s going to be difficult for the SEC and Big XII to move forward with their own plans for the “Champions” Bowl.  And either way, the new set-up will wind up being more convoluted and confusing for fans than the old BCS means of selecting teams and games.

 

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Aggies To Put “SEC Country” Billboards Up Across The Lone Star State

If you’re driving through one of Texas’ metro areas this fall, you might just spot a familiar message… in an unfamiliar place.

Texas A&M has told The Houston Chronicle that Aggie billboards will be put up all across the Lone Star State.  Four will go up in Houston.  Four will pop up in San Antonio.  Four more will appear in Dallas-Ft. Worth.

In those cities, two boards will read “This is SEC Country,” while the others will say, “This Is New Turf,” and “We Stand Ready.”

A&M already caused a stir a couple of weeks ago by raising a “This is SEC Country” billboard right outside of Austin, home of their hated Texas Longhorn rivals.

In addition to the billboards in the big cities, A&M is also going to place SEC-themed billboards on I-35 entering Texas from Oklahoma, on I-10 and I-20 entering Texas from Louisiana, and on I-30 entering Texas from Arkansas and Louisiana.

Told ya the Aggies would fit in perfectly.

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Three Texas Cities (Plus Atlanta, New Orleans) Bid For “Champions” Bowl

ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy reported last night that two more cities — Houston and San Antonio — have decided to make bids for the new “Champions” Bowl being created by the Big XII and SEC.  Those two cities join Arlington, New Orleans and Atlanta in the bidding process.

The two leagues asked 10 cities in all to bid for the new game, but to date, Jacksonville, Nashville, Orlando, Phoenix (Glendale), and Tampa have all twiddled their thumbs.  The feeling is that officials in those five cities believe Arlington and New Orleans to be such heavy favorites to land the game that they don’t even need to get involved in this auction.

The fact that Houston and San Antonio have gotten involved is clearly a plus for both the SEC and Big XII as it will drive up the price of the game.  More bidders = a better deal.  For now, it’s believed the “Champions” Bowl will partner with an existing bowl, take part in the new playoffs as a semifinal game in four years out of the 12-year plan, and kick off for the first time on January 1st, 2015.

But no one is really sure of anything.

When first announced, it was believed the two conferences would create their own new game and bid it out to a different city each year like a Super Bowl or a Final Four.  Soon after, however, the new playoff was created and the idea of rotating the game became a bit more complicated — due to semifinal tie-ins, television contracts, etc.  Not to mention the fact that existing bowls already have the infrastructure in place to pull off a big game.

Now, as messed up and complicated as the new playoff and big bowl system will be — and if you thought the BCS was confusing, you ain’t seen nothing yet — it’s still theoretically possible for the SEC and Big XII to rotate their game between two, three or even more sites.  We just wouldn’t bet on it.  Like most others, we believe Arlington, Texas and Jerry Jones have the deepest pockets and that will result in the “Champions” Bowl becoming the Cotton Bowl.

At MrSEC.com, we would still prefer the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans get the nod because it’s more centrally-located between the two conferences and its a more tourist-friendly destination… but cash will likely rule the day.

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Report: A 2-City Race To Host “Champions” Bowl (But Not The 2 Cities Everyone Expected)

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.

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A Closer Look At 10 Potential “Champions” Bowl Hosts

We quickly wanted to take a closer, by-the-numbers look at the 10 cities asked by the SEC and Big XII to submit bids to host the soon-to-launch “Champions” Bowl.  We’ll do so in alphabetical order.

At the end of each city’s breakdown, we’ll also give you our “official” MrSEC.com take  on each site, revealing what we believe to be the positives and negatives associated with each location.

One thing we won’t get into is whether or not a city provides some type of homefield advantage to one league or the other.  If the two conferences have agreed upon these cities, then there’s no need to bicker over whether a site is too SEC- or Big XII-centric.  Many fans will argue over this type of thing, but if the commissioners aren’t worried about it, we won’t worry about it either.

Now, your 10 potential “Champions” Bowl host sites:

 

Atlanta

2010 Population: 420,000

Facility: Georgia Dome (71,228 seats)

Dome/Rectractable/Open: Dome

Average Weather Jan. 1st: Low 34, High 52

Current Bowl: Chick-fil-A Bowl

Current Bowl Title Sponsor: Chick-fil-A

Hosted Super Bowl: Yes

MrSEC.com’s Take: Atlanta has become the hub of the SEC.  While the weather’s not great in January, the city has shown that it can host every type of major sporting event.  It wouldn’t be our choice for the game as the SEC is in danger of becoming all Atlanta’d out, but the city is definitely one of the co-favorites to land the first “Champions” Bowl.

 

Dallas (numbers for Arlington, which is most likely to host the game)

2010 Population: 365,000

Facility: Cowboys Stadium (80,000 seats… can fit 100,000+)

Dome/Rectractable/Open: Retractable Roof

Average Weather Jan. 1st: Low 35, High 56

Current Bowl: Cotton Bowl

Current Bowl Title Sponsor: AT&T

Hosted Super Bowl: Yes

MrSEC.com’s Take: Arlington is the other co-favorite to land the game.  If part of a rotation, we’re fine with that.  But if Arlington is to be the year-in, year-out home to the game, well, that’s a different story.  The Metroplex is a fine area but the weather can get nasty in January and it’s not exactly a tourist hotspot.  Still, the final decision will be all about money and Arlington — thanks to Jerry Jones — has plenty of it.

 

Houston

2010 Population: 2,099,000

Facility: Reliant Stadium (71,054 seats)

Dome/Rectractable/Open: Retractable Roof

Average Weather Jan. 1st: Low 45, High 63

Current Bowl: Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas

Current Bowl Title Sponsor: Meineke

Hosted Super Bowl: Yes

MrSEC.com’s Take: A little bit warmer weather than Arlington, Houston would be a better choice to host the game in our view.  The area even has beaches in the area for tourists, though January probably isn’t the best time for a dip in the Gulf.  Houston is also is centrally-located between the two leagues which would theoretically make travel easier for a larger number of fans.

 

Jacksonville

2010 Population: 821,000

Facility: EverBank Field (84,000 seats)

Dome/Rectractable/Open: Open Air

Average Weather Jan. 1st: Low 41, High 65

Current Bowl: Gator Bowl

Current Bowl Title Sponsor: Taxslayer.com

Hosted Super Bowl: Yes

MrSEC.com’s Take:  Our first concern is the open air stadium.  No one wants to play in a rainy bowl game.  Our second concern is the fact that Jacksonville didn’t get high marks when it hosted its one and only Super Bowl seven years ago.  We’ll get angry emails, we know, but Jacksonville would probably be #10 on our list.

 

Nashville

2010 Population: 601,000

Facility: LP Field (68,798 seats)

Dome/Rectractable/Open: Open Air

Average Weather Jan. 1st: Low 29, High 47

Current Bowl: Music City Bowl

Current Bowl Title Sponsor: Franklin American Mortgage

Hosted Super Bowl: No

MrSEC.com’s Take: Nashville is definitely a tourist destination with clubs, bars and live music at every turn downtown.  But the weather — an average low of 29! — and an open-air facility make this a hard sell.  Plus, the city hasn’t hosted a Super Bowl or BCS-level game before.  We don’t doubt that it could… but it hasn’t yet.

 

New Orleans

2010 Population: 343,000

Facility: Mercedes-Benz Superdome (72,003 seats)

Dome/Rectractable/Open: Dome

Average Weather Jan. 1st: Low 45, High 62

Current Bowl: Sugar Bowl and New Orleans Bowl

Current Bowl Title Sponsor: Allstate (Sugar Bowl) and R+L Carriers (New Orleans Bowl)

Hosted Super Bowl: Yes

MrSEC.com’s Take: Like Houston, New Orleans is centrally-located between the SEC and Big XII schools.  Travel would be easier for a larger group of fans.  The city has hosted Super Bowls, Final Fours, BCS title games, etc.  And there’s no better tourist destination — for adults — on the list.  If you read this, then you know New Orleans would be our pick for a permanent home to the “Champions” Bowl.

 

Orlando

2010 Population: 238,000

Facility: Florida Citrus Bowl (70,000 seats)

Dome/Rectractable/Open: Open Air

Average Weather Jan. 1st: Low 50, High 71

Current Bowl: Capital One Bowl

Current Bowl Title Sponsor: Capital One

Hosted Super Bowl: No

MrSEC.com’s Take:  There’s no better tourist destination — for families — than Orlando and its theme parks (SeaWorld, Disney, etc).  The stadium is also due to get a nice revamp.  But the current open air setting means that rain is a possibility.  Again, who wants to play a bowl game in the rain?

 

Phoenix (numbers for Glendale, which is most likely to host the game)

2010 Population: 226,000

Facility: University of Phoenix Stadium (63,400 seats… can fit 80,000+)

Dome/Rectractable/Open: Retractable Roof

Average Weather Jan. 1st: Low 41, High 66

Current Bowl: Fiesta Bowl

Current Bowl Title Sponsor: Tostitos

Hosted Super Bowl: Yes

MrSEC.com’s Take: Glendale isn’t located in an SEC or Big XII state but that might not be a bad thing.  Getting the game into Pac-12 country might actually help with SEC/Big XII West Coast recruiting.  Like some of the others on the list, this city would get a thumbs-up as a once-in-a-while host site.  Not as a permanent partner.

 

San Antonio

2010 Population: 1,327,000

Facility: Alamodome (65,000 seats)

Dome/Rectractable/Open: Dome

Average Weather Jan. 1st: Low 40, High 62

Current Bowl: Alamo Bowl

Current Bowl Title Sponsor: Valero

Hosted Super Bowl: No

MrSEC.com’s Take: It’s Nashville with a little bit better weather and a roof.  Yes, it’s tourist friendly.  No, the city hasn’t proven it can host a Super Bowl.  San Antonio did, however, host the Final Four in 2008.  Gotta say, San Antonio would get a quicker “yes” from this site than Arlington would.  In fact, San Antonio would be quite high on our list overall.

 

Tampa

2010 Population: 335,000

Facility: Raymond James Stadium (65,857 seats)

Dome/Rectractable/Open: Open Air

Average Weather Jan. 1st: Low 52, High 70

Current Bowl: Outback Bowl

Current Bowl Title Sponsor: Outback

Hosted Super Bowl: Yes

MrSEC.com’s Take: Another major tourist destination.  The weather is typically warm, but the open air setting is a concern.  That said, the city has hosted big-time sporting events of every kind.  Tampa would be an obvious choice for the game.

 

Looking at this list, a few questions come to mind:

 

1.  Will the “Champions” Bowl find a permanent home or will it be in a state of constant movement?  One would assume that a constant rotation is likely.

2.  So will a city like — let’s say — Atlanta just turn the Chick-fil-A Bowl into the “Champions” Bowl in a given year?  If so, how would Chick-fil-A feel about losing its title partnership for a year?  After all, the SEC and Big XII intend to sell their own title partnership for their game.  Or would Atlanta host the Chick-fil-A Bowl and a separate “Champions” Bowl?  These are questions each city/bowl/sponsor on the list would have to wrestle with.

3.  Is the new postseason football structure going to be a jumbled mess?  Absolutely.  Access bowls.  A selection committee to seed the bowls.  A “Champions” Bowl that might change venues and name on an annual basis.  Some bowls that become playoff hosts more often than others.  All messy.

Until now, people struggled to figure out the BCS formula.  Starting in 2014, there will be a lot more strange things for fans to try and keep track of.

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SEC/Big XII Ask 10 Cities To Bid For “Champions” Bowl

At first, the new “Champions” Bowl featuring the winners of the SEC and the Big XII — when they’re not in the national playoffs — was expected to be its own new game.  Then word trickled out from both conferences suggesting the game could simply partner with an existing bowl.  At that point, the Cotton Bowl and Jerry Jones’ mammoth Cowboys Stadium became everyone’s favorite to land/become the “Champions” Bowl.

Ah, but yesterday ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported that SEC/Big XII officials had requested bids for the game from 10 cities:

 

1.  Dallas (which likely means Arlington and Cowboys Stadium)

2.  New Orleans

3.  Atlanta

4.  Phoenix (likely meaning Glendale and the Cardinals’ home dome)

5.  Houston

6.  Orlando

7.  Nashville

8.  San Antonio

9.  Tampa

10.  Jacksonville

 

While someone in the SEC office told me the game is “still finding its legs,” this list suggests that the two conferences want to bid out their game each year and simply partner with whatever bowl exists in the city that bids the most cash.

According to Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News, the leagues are willing to accept a lump sum payout from the bowls/cities or some sort of new revenue-sharing model.  This would mean that the bowls/cities would take out a management fee to actually run the bowl and then split the rest of the revenue — at some percentage — with the SEC and the Big XII.  I spoke to two bowl officials last week who suggested the bowls involved would want some portion of the $80 million per year television contract the leagues have reportedly inked with ESPN.  Solomon reports, however, that the conferences won’t be sharing that cash… or revenue brought in from a title sponsor.  (The exception being when the “Champions” Bowl is part of the national playoffs and the proceeds are split with other leagus.)

But if a bowl gets none of the television money, has to give up its own title partner for a year, and can only keep a percentage of the game revenue — tickets, concessions, parking, etc — over and above a built-in management fee, then why bid?  While hosting the SEC/Big XII “champions” would be a nice draw for viewers and tourists ready to pay higher ticket prices, a game like the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, for example, might actually stand to make more money with its usual Big XII/Pac-12 middle-of-the-pack game.  In that case, it would be paying out its usual lump sums to those leagues, it would still be able to pocket the cash from corporate sponsor Valero, and it would be able to keep a chunk of ESPN television money.

From a “wow” factor, landing the “Champions” Bowl would be a win for any bowl.  But from the bowl officials I spoke with, the cash factor wouldn’t be nearly so great.  So it will be interesting to see which of the above cities decide to make bids.  You can bet that ego will play a role in who does and doesn’t and that — again — leads back to Jerry Jones and Arlington.

As for the cities invited to bid, six are in SEC states, three are in Texas (a state shared by both conferences), and Phoenix is outside both leagues’ footprints (though the Big XII has a tie-in with the Fiesta Bowl as part of the current BCS set-up).

It’s hard to imagine some of the cities on the list actually landing the game, but it certainly makes sense for the conferences to ask 10 cities to bid.  The more cities involved, the more competition for the game and, in the end, the more cash the leagues will pocket from the winning bidder.

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Texas Safety Chooses Tennessee

Tennessee received a commitment Monday night from safety Kameron Miles from West Mesquite High School in Mesquite, Texas.

Miles chose the Vols over Arkansas, Penn State and Stanford.

“I want to play in the SEC,” Miles told the Times Free Press. “That’s really where my heart was at. I had a good connection with the coaches, and that’s why I really felt comfortable.”

Miles, who was nominated to play in January’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, is ranked the nation’s 10th-best safety and No. 86 prospect for 2013 class by Rivals.

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Mooney Makes UT’s Coaching List

Tennessee has the money to outbid Georgia Tech, Missouri, NC State, and Oklahoma for Richmond’s Chris Mooney should it come to that.  Question is — would the Vols’ NCAA baggage scare him away?

Multiple reports out of Knoxville say that Mooney is now very much on UT’s list of potential candidates to replace Bruce Pearl.  According to a source, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Mooney has not been contacted by the school as of yet.  At least not directly.

Volquest.com — the Rivals site for Tennessee — reports that a third-party has spoken to both UT officials and Mooney… which is pretty standard when it comes to coaching searches.  (For the full report, you’ll need a subscription.)

Mooney’s Richmond squad will face Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen tonight in San Antonio.

As we’ve said from Day One of the Vols’ search, Mooney appears to have the right resume, the right personality and the right reputation to replace Pearl.  So when Tennessee is finished phoning big name coaches, we suspect Mooney will become UT’s top target.  Can they lure him away from those schools mentioned above?  We shall see.

Whomever the Vols hire, a News Sentinel editorial declares “it is imperative” that that new coach restore honor to the Tennessee program.

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Mississippi State Loses Commitment Due To Diaz Departure

Linebacker C.J. Johnson from Philadelphia (Miss.) High School has de-committed from Mississippi State.

Johnson made the decision after learning of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s decision to leave for Texas.

“It started off that Mark Hudspeth was recruiting me,” Johnson told Rivals.com, “and he left and went to Louisiana-Lafayette, and then Coach Diaz left and went to Texas, and so it kind of got me thinking about some things and I don’t feel as comfortable as I did.”

Mississippi State will remain in the running for Johnson, who will play in Saturday’s U.S. Army All-Amercian Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. Johnson told Rivals he also plans to consider LSU and Ole Miss.

“When I get home, it’s something I just want to talk about with my mom,” Johnson said. “I’m confident coach (Dan) Mullen is going to bring good people in, and hopefully I’ll be able to make a decision.

“It’s not something I’m going to drag out until signing day. I don’t want to come to a decision, and then right before signing day other things come up. It’s definitely something I’m going to sit down and talk to my mom about, and then make a final decision.”

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Bo Jackson To Receive NCAA Silver Anniversary Award

Former Auburn football player Bo Jackson has been selected as a 2011 recipient of the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award. Jackson will be presented with the award Jan. 14, 2011, at the NCAA Convention in San Antonio, Texas.
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