Midwest venues interested in playoff

April, 27, 2012
4/27/12
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If the BCS brass opens the bidding process to host future college football playoff games, three venues in the Big Ten footprint would be interested.

Officials from Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, Detroit's Ford Field and St. Louis' Edward Jones Dome confirmed to ESPN.com that their groups would explore the possibility of bidding to host a semifinal or a championship game if college football's future postseason structure allows it. The BCS meetings took place this week in Hollywood, Fla., and a four-team postseason setup is inevitable. The preferred model, colleague Mark Schlabach reports, is to have both semifinals and the championship game at neutral sites.

The big question is whether these neutral-site games will be held at existing bowl sites like Pasadena, Calif., or New Orleans, or whether non-bowl sites like Indianapolis, St. Louis and Detroit will be able to bid on them.

[+] EnlargeKeshawn Martin
Richard Mackson/US PresswireLucas Oil Stadium hosted a thrilling Big Ten title game in December. Will the Indianapolis facility host a college football playoff game in the future?
The preference of Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany -- and most Big Ten fans, as our recent poll shows -- is to have semifinal games at campus sites. But that plan, unfortunately, is all but dead. As Bennett and I wrote earlier this week, the Big Ten would benefit greatly from having nationally relevant games closer to its campuses and fans in late December or early January. Rather than playing some virtual road games, Big Ten teams and their fans could make short trips to venues like Lucas Oil Stadium -- site of the inaugural Big Ten football championship game in December -- the Edward Jones Dome or Ford Field.

Outdoor venues like Chicago's Soldier Field would delight some Big Ten fans, but they're highly unlikely to be considered. Those venues bring too many potential risks and logistical headaches that the indoor venues don't.

"We'd definitely be interested," said Brad Michaels, events coordinator at Ford Field. "With all the other events we get here, we're always open to those kinds of ideas."

Ford Field hosts the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl every year and also has hosted a Super Bowl and a Final Four.

Indianapolis boasts an extensive resume for hosting major sporting events, which includes the most recent Super Bowl and six NCAA men's Final Fours. The Big Ten selected Lucas Oil Stadium to host its first five football title games.

John Dedman, vice president of communications for Indiana Sports Corp, which spearheads the campaigns to bring major events to Indy, said the group has been monitoring the BCS meetings this week.

"When you look at the interest around the BCS and around college football, we would be very interested in taking a look at [making a bid] once all the decisions are made," Dedman told ESPN.com. "... A BCS championship game, a BCS semifinal, whatever those options are, that would rank right up there with the best things that we've done over the last couple of years."

The Edward Jones Dome hosted the first Big 12 championship game in 1996 and another in 1998. The venue also hosted six Illinois-Missouri football games between 2002-10, in addition to the 2005 men's Final Four.

"A definite yes," said Donna Andrews, director of public relations for the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, which manages the Edward Jones Dome. "We are a neutral site and the kind of city and venue the NCAA looks at for events like this. If there's an opportunity to bid on this, it's a win for St. Louis and a win for the community."

Andrews noted that the dome is connected to the America's Center convention complex, which could host the supplementary events that would take place alongside a football playoff game. Lucas Oil Stadium has a similar setup with the Indiana Convention Center.

The other advantage of Midwest-based sites is their accessibility for all fans, unlike the major bowl sites, which are only in the south and west.

"I'm pretty sure the people looking to revamp bowl system are looking how easy is it to get for students and fans to get to these games," Andrews said. "St. Louis' accessibility is in the heart of the country."

Dedman said the excitement for football in central Indiana has grown after Super Bowl XLVI and the Big Ten title game, which he said provided "momentum" heading into the Super Bowl.

As for a college football playoff, Indiana Sports Corp is waiting, like the rest of us, for a decision.

"As we do with every bid that is presented to us, you really have to look through all the nuts and bolts of it and make sure that it’s a good fit for what we do," Dedman said. "Without having those documents in front of us, without knowing exact dates and what they would be looking for, we're talking about the hypothetical of a hypothetical.

"But it's something we would have to take a very strong look at because obviously it's a marquee event."

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