April 22, 2013

Arlington set to become major player in college football playoff system

Officials to learn this week about 2015 national title game, Cotton Bowl’s future role in playoffs.

College football’s shifting landscape could include regular stops in Arlington during its playoff era if votes are cast the way most observers envision at this week’s meeting of BCS conference commissioners in Pasadena, Calif.

During the sessions that run Tuesday through Thursday, administrators will finalize the site of the Jan. 12, 2015, national championship game that will be the first of the playoff era in major college football. Cowboys Stadium in Arlington is one of two finalists bidding to host the contest along with Tampa, Fla., and an announcement is expected Wednesday.

In addition, the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic — played annually at Cowboys Stadium — is one of four bowls hoping to land three available spots to fill out the six-bowl playoff rotation for semifinal games. The Cotton, Fiesta, Chick-fil-A and Holiday bowls are bidding to join the Rose, Orange and Sugar bowls in the semifinal rotation, with an announcement expected by Thursday.

Multiple industry sources have cited Cowboys Stadium as a favorite to land the championship game to be played at the conclusion of the 2014 regular season and the Cotton Bowl as a favorite to become a regular part of the playoff rotation.

But nothing will be settled until the votes are taken this week in Pasadena. That is why Cotton Bowl officials said Monday that they are not taking anything for granted and that they are not planning any premature celebrations.

“We’re excited about our opportunities,” said Rick Baker, Cotton Bowl president. “Everything we’ve done over the last half-dozen years or so, including moving our game to Cowboys Stadium, has been pointed toward having an opportunity to be involved in the biggest, most important postseason college football games year in and year out. We have that opportunity in front of us.”

But it will take a formal vote of college football administrators in Pasadena to make it a reality. Reports by multiple media outlets have cited Cowboys Stadium as an overwhelming favorite to land the inaugural championship game, with ESPN citing the venue as a “virtual lock” after the latest commissioners meeting in March. In January, an industry source told the Star-Telegram that the Arlington venue had a 95 percent chance of landing the contest.

BCS spokesman Bill Hancock stressed that no decision has been made heading into Tuesday’s start of the three-day session and that a competitive process is ongoing as officials decide between the final bids.

In addition, Hancock indicated a new name for the playoff system — essentially rebranding the BCS — is expected to be determined in Pasadena. But the biggest issues of interest in DFW involve the venue for college football’s 2015 title game and the future role of the Cotton Bowl during the sport’s playoff era.

In terms of hosting the title game, DFW officials indicated their approach has not changed since January, when Tommy Bain, chairman of the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association, described the group as “cautiously optimistic” about its opportunity to land the 2015 contest.

“Our goal is to host the first one,” Bain said at the time. “We’re totally optimistic about hosting national championships, and we’re cautiously optimistic about hosting the first one.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he is anxiously awaiting the decision.

“We think we have the facility — with our partnership with the Cotton Bowl — we just think we’ve got the tools to make it the best place to have that game,” he said.

If elevated to the semifinals rotation during the playoff era, the Cotton Bowl would host a semifinal game once every three years. In the other two years, the contest would feature a matchup of highly ranked teams from the BCS standings that did not make the four-team playoff field.

For the Cotton Bowl, which has not been included among the group of BCS bowls since the format began taking shape in 1994, a move into the regular mix of playoff venues would be significant in prestige and revenues.

“We’re encouraged. But you never know,” Baker said. “We don’t take anything for granted.”

Carlos Mendez contributed to this report.

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