NEW ORLEANS — The first set of BCS standings come out on Sunday, but please forgive Allstate Sugar Bowl Chief Executive Officer Paul Hoolahan if his focus is elsewhere.
Namely, 2014, when college football’s much-ballyhooed four-team playoff begins.
Decisions on the particulars are being made in the next few weeks and months, including the site of the so-called Champions Bowl, which ostensibly will pit the winners of the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12, although it’s highly unlikely that would actually happen without it being a playoff semifinal.
The Champions Bowl, with its prime time New Year’s Day slot locked in and the assurance of featuring two highly ranked teams from prestigious conferences, make it highly desirable for any bowl to pair up with.
And that’s not to mention the assurance of being in the rotation for semifinal games, currently pegged at four times over the 12-year cycle of the contract, and the additional likelihood of hosting the national championship game at least twice during those 12 years.
It’s exactly the spot in the postseason pecking order which the Sugar Bowl and New Orleans have enjoyed since the bowl’s inception nearly 80 years ago and which was cemented by its 20-year membership in the Bowl Coalition, Bowl Alliance and BCS, including last season’s national title game.
Miss out on the Champions Bowl, which is just a name-holder until the site is determined, and the Sugar Bowl has the option to become a Dec. 31 “access bowl’ game. But that would mean no conference tie-ins and no control over the participants, although the semifinals and championship game opportunities would remain.
Still, that would be a bitter pill to swallow.
“We have a natural affinity for the SEC because of our long-term relationship,” Hoolahan said. “It’s highly important for us to maintain that relationship.”
Not surprisingly, then, the bowl’s executive committee has given Hoolahan the authority to pull out the stops to land the Champions Bowl.
That’s going to be necessary.
The Cotton Bowl also wants to land the Champions Bowl. And with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ money, plus his palatial stadium which seats 20,000 more than the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the finances are in its favor.
Houston also put in a strong financial bid, but all indications are it’s going to come down to the Sugar vs. the Cotton. Or rather it should be New Orleans vs. Dallas.
While there’s no doubt Big D has its charms, it’s no match for New Orleans in entertainment and cuisine.
When Arkansas played Ohio State in the 2011 Sugar Bowl, a Razorbacks fan was heard on the phone telling his father back home, “I never knew food could taste this good.”
Wonder if he said the same thing last season when the Hogs were in the Cotton Bowl?
And if Bourbon Street is too much for some families to take in, the Sugar Bowl is prepared to ramp up its public events along the line of those planned for this year’s Super Bowl.
Plus, Cowboys Stadium is 15 miles from downtown Dallas. The Superdome is within walking distance of the overwhelming majority of the hotel rooms visitors will be occupying.
In short, there’s no better city in America than New Orleans to host a big time sports event.
On history alone, the SEC should be favoring the Sugar Bowl. So far, though, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive hasn’t tipped his hand.
That’s because money alone might still win out. The basic (or should that be base?) idea of the Champions Bowl is that the SEC and Big 12 can reap more revenues than under the current BCS setup, much as the Big Ten and Pac-12 do for the Rose Bowl.
Still, the Champions Bowl is all but a must-have for the Sugar Bowl and New Orleans, even if it means the cost might endanger some of the 25 other events the Sugar Bowl currently sponsors.
For that reason, it would serve the Sugar Bowl well to make friends with Tom Benson, whose control of Superdome revenues could sweeten the deal. Benson wouldn’t want to let Jerry Jones get ahead of him, would he?
The likely organizational setup for the national championship game will be along the lines of the Final Four, meaning stronger ties with the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation would be advisable as well.
SEC and Big 12 officials met this week in Nashville, Tenn., to go over proposals from the bidding cities. A decision is expected by the end of October, although a month ago it was supposed to have been done by now.
For Hoolahan and the rest of the Sugar Bowl organization, it can’t come soon enough.