Arizona will host the College Football Playoff championship in 2016 and Tampa, Fla., will be the site of the 2017 title game.
The conference commissioners who oversee the playoffs announced Monday their choices for the sites of the second and third championship games in the new postseason system that goes into effect next season.
“This was not an easy decision,” said Bill Hancock, executive director of the playoff. “It was a very competitive process. The decision was difficult because we received eight excellent proposals.”
The first championship game will played Jan. 12, 2015, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
The second title game is scheduled to be played Jan. 11, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz., at University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the Fiesta Bowl and the NFL’s Cardinals. The Fiesta Bowl is also part of the six-bowl semifinal rotation for the playoff, but it won’t host a semifinal until the 2016 season.
The other bidders for the 2016 game were Jacksonville, Fla., New Orleans and Tampa.
Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, home of the Buccaneers, was a finalist to host the first championship game, and it was no surprise that it was awarded one of the next two. The national title game in Tampa is scheduled to be played Jan. 9, 2017.
“We had to learn to lose before we can learn to win,” said Rob Higgins, director of the Tampa Bay sports commission.
The other bidders for the 2017 game were Jacksonville; the San Francisco Bay Area; Minneapolis; San Antonio, Texas; and South Florida.
The Fiesta Bowl was racked by scandal in 2011 when it was revealed by The Arizona Republic that bowl employees were being reimbursed for political contributions. Later, a 276-page report of an investigation conducted by Fiesta Bowl board members and a retired Arizona state Supreme Court justice detailed the “apparent scheme.” The probe also found “an apparent conspiracy to conceal the reimbursement scheme from the bowl’s Board of Directors and state officials.” Two high-ranking bowl officials were fired and later pleaded guilty to federal charges for their roles in the fraudulent campaign-contribution scheme.
The Bowl Championship Series fined the Fiesta Bowl $1 million, but the game remained part of the postseason system for crowning a national champion.
Under new leadership, the Fiesta Bowl has been able to hold on to a place among the elite postseason games.
“Credit to the commissioners for hearing me out and understanding where the Fiesta Bowl is headed,” Fiesta Bowl executive director and former University of Arizona president Robert Shelton said.
The championship game will be played in three time zones in the first three seasons, but Hancock said that shouldn’t suggest a pattern.
“Obviously, playing in three time zones with the first three games was something that turned out to be important to the committee,” Hancock said. “I think you can expect to see the game move around to different parts of the country, but without a set rotation.”