“This has nothing to do with our ability to be the best host city for big events like this. But going forward, we have got to address our financial limitations, particularly when it comes to assistance from the state.” PAUL HOOLAHAN, Sugar Bowl executive director
For more than 20 years, New Orleans has been guaranteed a place in the rotation as a site for college football’s national championship game.
The management committee of the College Football Playoff, which will replace the BCS starting next year, voted Monday to award the 2016 title game to Glendale, Ariz., home of the Fiesta Bowl, along with Tampa, Fla., in 2017, meaning New Orleans won’t have another shot at the event until 2019.
And Allstate Sugar Bowl Executive Director Paul Hoolahan, who spearheaded the local effort along with the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, warned that unless more financial resources can be found to fund the ever-increasing cost of the bids, the city that has seen 23 national championships settled might be shut out of the process altogether.
The Arizona and Tampa bids were reportedly $13 million, more than twice of what New Orleans could offer.
“This has nothing to do with our ability to be the best host city for big events like this,” he said. “But going forward, we have got to address our financial limitations, particularly when it comes to assistance from the state.”
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne agreed.
“The CFP is taking a page out of the NFL playbook and putting quite a price tag on a city’s ability to attract this game,” he said. “If we are going to be able (to) compete monetarily — and these events are quite lucrative and well-worth the dollars we spend to get them — then we have to find a funding mechanism to pay the bills when they come due.”
Dardenne has championed a yet-unfunded bill that passed the legislature in 2011 that would pull funds from the state office of tourism, the department of economic development and the general fund, plus the extra sales tax revenues created during major events like the Super Bowl and Final Four.
Such a fund already exists in Texas, and Dallas was able to tap into to it to land the first CFP title game after the 2014 season.
The Sugar Bowl currently receives about $1 million annually from the state.
CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said the only thing lacking in the New Orleans bid were financial considerations.
“New Orleans got a very close look at this as always,” he said. “Both the Sugar Bowl and the folks in the community did a terrific job in preparing their bid.
“But they could not fully comply with certain business points. But we still expect New Orleans to be part of the College Football Playoff for many years to come.”
Indeed, under a separate agreement reached last year, the Sugar Bowl will become a “contract bowl,” matching the best available teams from the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 eight times over the next 12 years and serving as the site of a CFP semifinal four other times.
But landing the title game in 2016 was to have been the first step in ambitious local effort to have it, followed by the Final Four in 2017 and the Super Bowl in 2018.
Because of the Final Four effort, which will be decided in November, New Orleans did not bid on the 2017 game, and it could not in 2018 because the Sugar Bowl will be a semifinal that year.
“It would have been the icing on the cake,” Hoolahan said of the 2016 title game. “But we’re still a major player in all of this and if things work out, we will take our best shot at the championship game next time around.
“You can see why cities that were left out of this the first time around put so much into getting back in the game.”
However, Hoolahan acknowledged that after being part of the BCS for the past 16 years and its predecessors, the Bowl Alliance and Bowl Coalition for the six years before that, it is a bit unsettling to not have a title game to look forward to.
“Sometimes it was like we led a charmed existence,” he said. “But that was only because of the tremendous efforts by the people in this organization down through the years,
“It’s a new dynamic out there, though, and this was a wakeup call.”