Posted on: July 6 2012More than a week has passed since college football announced its new four-team playoff format
New college football playoff format may be better for New Orleans
Published: Friday, July 06, 2012, 2:15 AM
Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune
More than a week has passed since college football announced its new four-team playoff format, and despite days of research, it's still unclear what it means for New Orleans.
Is this a good thing, or potentially a blow to our status as a college football mecca?
Don't be embarrassed if you've found yourself confused by this convoluted new system. Just when you thought you'd mastered the BCS system of automatic qualifiers and the Harris Interactive Poll, college football throws a befuddling new series of terms at us -- the Champions Bowl, contract bowls and access bowls.
Even the people involved in the sport are puzzled by it all. Calls to the local college football cognoscenti this week did little to clear the picture. There's so much uncertainty, some of the sport's key players are afraid to even be cautiously optimistic.
What we do know about the new four-team playoff format, which is scheduled to debut in 2014, is this:
It's definitely going to be different.
It's certainly going to be more conclusive.
And it's undoubtedly going to be more lucrative for everyone involved.
But will it be better? Especially for New Orleans, given our long, proud history as a college football showcase city?
Too many unanswered questions remain to say at this point. Could be great. Could be devastating. Nothing is guaranteed in this ever-changing landscape of college sports, where tradition and prestige can vanish in the blink of a back-room handshake.
My hometown, Louisville, Ky., was once considered the capital of college basketball. From 1958 to 1969, it played host to six Final Fours. It hasn't hosted one since.
To avoid a similar fate in college football's new paradigm, New Orleans must marshal its considerable resources. Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolhan can't do this by himself. He'll need help. Everyone from the mayor to the governor to tourism and Superdome officials need to get on board when the time comes.
College football has taken its game to a new level. New Orleans will need to step up if it hopes to maintain its spot in the hierarchy.
Despite increased competition and an unprecedented natural/man-made disaster, New Orleans, along with Miami, Phoenix and Los Angeles, has managed to maintain its status as one of college football's Big Four.
The city's tradition, resources and renowned reputation as a big-event market should get us in the room when the powers that be start sorting out the new world order.
But the new system will bring new challenges and greatly increased competition.
In the old BCS format, New Orleans was guaranteed a championship every four years. That's unlikely to happen now.
At best, we should hope for a championship game once every six years or so. And even that's not guaranteed.
Any city can now bid on the title game, just like a Super Bowl. Expect non-traditional college football markets such as Indianapolis to elbow their way into the mix. Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Tampa will also throw their names in the hat.
A college football championship game immediately will become one of the premier events in American sports. Only the Super Bowl will eclipse it.
Even the semifinal games will be huge. And New Orleans figures to be in the rotation to host one every three years or so, depending on how things fall into place.
Those semifinal games will be significant events. They might fall short of a BCS title game in terms of prestige and economic impact, but they'll easily surpass a normal Sugar Bowl. Think of them as college football's version of the NFC and AFC championship games.
So while we might host fewer title games in the future, we'll maintain our relevancy if we gain a permanent spot in the semifinal rotation.
In fact, if New Orleans could land a title game every six years and keep its spot in the semifinal rotation, this new system could actually prove to be better for us.
Instead of hosting a nationally relevant game every four years, we'd have one every other year on average. Two semifinal games and a title game every six years beats two title games every eight years.
There's no doubt New Orleans will rise to the occasion once this new plan is finalized.
New Orleans takes a back seat to no city when it comes to hosting major sporting events. We have more Super Bowls, BCS title games, Final Fours and NBA All-Star events than any city of our size in America, whether Colin Cowherd likes it or not. College football will be no different.
The landscape of college football has changed. But New Orleans and its enduring charms have not.
We figure to be a factor in college football for the foreseeable future. How big of one remains to be seen.
Jeff Duncan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3404.
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