TAMPA — If the site of future college football national championship games goes up for bid, count Tampa as another city interested in hosting the pinnacle of a new postseason playoff.
"Especially knowing how special a national championship game would be, we certainly want to be a part of that dialogue," said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, which during the past four years has helped the city host a Super Bowl, a women's basketball Final Four and college hockey's Frozen Four. "If and when the opportunity presented itself for a neutral-site national championship game, it's something we'd work diligently to put the community's best foot forward, for sure."
College football is expected to start a four-team playoff after the 2014 season, with semifinals and a final likely to be played at neutral sites in January, either pulling from the current BCS bowls — in Miami; New Orleans; Tempe, Ariz.; and Pasadena, Calif. — or taking an open-bid process from other top venues, with Tampa and Dallas among the logical outside candidates. Officials of northern domed arenas such as Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, Detroit's Ford Field and St. Louis' Edward Jones Dome told ESPN last month that they would also be interested in the much-anticipated game.
Tampa, which has hosted four Super Bowls as well as NCAA championships in men's and women's basketball and men's hockey, would be a strong candidate for the same reasons it has done well with the NFL's championship: great weather at that time of year, a strong venue in Raymond James Stadium, and the hotels and diverse entertainment options to make the game a coveted destination for fans.
"Our community has the ability to really step up and really wrap its arms around major events like this," Higgins said. "Naturally, I think not only should we be in the mix, I'm hopeful that we would be."
No timetable has been set for establishing a specific model for a playoff; some key figures prefer semifinals on college campuses. Only when a model is set would the NCAA begin the process of selecting sites for games, which could rotate around the country like the Final Four or the current BCS football championship game.