Fiesta Bowl’s Shelton believes strongly in Championship Game bid

Sep 26, 2013, 11:22 PM | Updated: 11:22 pm
LISTEN: Robert Shelton, Fiesta Bowl Director

Thursday afternoon, the Fiesta Bowl announced it had submitted a bid to bring the 2016 College Football Championship Game to Arizona.

The game, which would be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, would be the second title game played under the new NCAA Playoff.

And unlike the current (and soon to be obselete) setup, if the bid fails, there is no guarantee of the game coming to the Valley in the following years.

“Now it’s bid out,” said Dr. Robert Shelton, who is the Executive Director of the Fiesta Bowl. “Any organization can get together and bid to host a championship game. You don’t have to be one of the six College Football Playoff bowls — you wouldn’t even have to have a bowl at all.”

Under the current format, the BCS National Championship Game rotates between sites that host the Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. Getting the title game was not so much about submitting a bid as it was just waiting your turn.

But now, according to Shelton, it’s very similar to how the NFL selects sites for the Super Bowl and how the NCAA chooses where to host the Final Four. There are certain criteria that must be met by eligible sites — including stadium size, number of hotel rooms and convention center space — but if all those requirements are satisfied, a bid has a chance.

“This bid, it’s not a ‘Fiesta Bowl’ bid, it’s a Valley of the Sun — we’re calling it an Arizona 2016 bid,” he said.

According to the Fiesta Bowl, there are 19 different people on the Board of Directors, with the group featuring politicians, university athletic directors, business leaders and high-level executives from the professional sports landscape.

Shelton said having so many different people and organizations being unified in this effort has been gratifying, as past bids for events, such as the Final Four, were railroaded by a lack of cohesion.

Everyone is speaking as one voice now, Shelton said, and their job was to create and submit a bid to a group comprised of 10 major conference commissioners along with Notre Dame’s athletic director.

“The advantage we have is we have shown we can do this well,” Shelton said. “The Fiesta Bowl, as an organization, has hosted seven national championship games over its existence, and they’ve all been outstanding.”

The most recent was in 2011, when Auburn knocked off Oregon 22-19. And the Valley hosted Super Bowl XLII in 2008, which gave a glimpse of what the Grand Canyon State has to offer.

“Because then it’s not just the Fiesta Bowl; it extends out to the whole metropolitan area,” Shelton said.

And the entire state would benefit from hosting the game. Shelton said a study conducted by ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business put the economic impact from the 2011 game at roughly $188 million, and on top of that, the amount of volunteerism that goes into hosting the event as well as the prestige attached to it makes it a worthwhile venture.

“You want people looking and saying ‘that’s where I want to be, that’s where I want to come, that’s where I want to locate my business,'” Shelton said. “Phoenix is right up there with the big boys and girls in terms of a destination.”

The bid was supposed to be formally submitted by Sept. 27, meaning for now, all Shelton and the group can do is wait and hope they did enough to convince the decision-makers that the 2016 game should come West.

Arizona, he believes, has plenty to offer, with a track record of success, a beautiful stadium, wonderful weather and all the amenities the game could use.

Of course, there’s always the chance that the bid is unsuccessful, and the game goes somewhere else. Should that be the case, Shelton says the group will learn from what happened and turn the focus to landing the game in 2018 or 2019.

“But you know, if I’m the College Football Playoff Group I’m thinking this needs to be a success, we want to go where there’s experience, and I think that calls for giving us the bid in 2016,” he said, with a smile. “But I’ve got a bias.”

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Fiesta Bowl’s Shelton believes strongly in Championship Game bid