TAMPA — Football’s national championship could be decided at Raymond James Stadium in 2016 or 2017.
Tampa will meet Friday’s deadline to put in a bid to host the championship game in either of those two years, said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, which prepares bids for major sporting events in the region.
Already, ESPN is reporting that four cities - Tampa, Jacksonville, Glendale, Ariz., and New Orleans - are considered front-runners for the Jan. 11, 2016, national title game. Tampa and Jacksonville would be considered front-runners for the 2017 game if neither is selected to host the national championship in 2016, ESPN reports.
Competition for the game, expected to bring millions into the local economy, is fierce, Higgins said. Among other things, Tampa’s bid brags about local hotels, airports, tourist attractions and Raymond James Stadium.
“Certainly there are some great cities out there that also are bidding,’’ Higgins said. “Naturally, we are doing everything we can to put together a strong package that will garner strong consideration.”
Bids will be reviewed by the 10 commissioners of Football Bowl Subdivision and a representative of Notre Dame. The decision of which cities will host the 2016 and 2017 games will be announced in November.
“We are at the point now where we are crossing the ‘t’s and dotting the ‘i’s,” Higgins said. “We’re putting together the best package possible.”
The championship game will become a part of a new college football playoff system that will feature playoff bowl games in six stadiums across the country before the final title game. Tampa applied to host the first championship game on Jan. 12, 2015, but lost out to At&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, near Dallas.
College playoff officials in April commended Tampa’s bid and said they expect Tampa to land a championship game eventually.
Higgins said finishing second to Dallas for the inaugural game won’t help in securing the second or third championship game.
“We don’t think that has any advantage in this process,” Higgins said. “But, we think it is important ... to show how eager we are to host this event.”
“Not only will this be a tremendous economic impact on our community, but we will be in on the early stages of what will be incredible major event. It’s a national stage and having our community being a part of it will be enormous.”
Raymond James Stadium is home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the University of South Florida Bulls and the annual Outback Bowl and has been host to four Super Bowls — two in the old Tampa Stadium, and two in the newer Raymond James Stadium — the most recent of which was in 2009.