MIKE O'HARA

O'Hara: Ford Field could host college football's newly formed championship game

Posted Jun 29, 2012

A lot of negotiating, planning and money-raising has to be done, but college football could have Ford Field in its future as a host stadium for its newly-formed championship game.

While the college championship won’t be on as grand a scale as a Super Bowl in terms of events and parties related to it, it will be one of the elite events on the sports calendar.

On Tuesday, the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee approved a four-team playoff system to determine the national champion. The new system begins in the 2014 season and runs for 12 years, through 2025.

As part of the playoff format, the site for the host stadium will be put up for bid. Ford Field has a track record for hosting major sports events, but that doesn’t mean the stadium’s management and community leaders will dive in head-first to bring the college football championship to downtown Detroit.

It will be more a case of testing the waters – with an ultimate decision to bid on the game.

“It’s really premature,” said Tom Lewand, president of the Lions and Ford Field. “We’re going to actively explore it. We’ll get together with community leaders to discuss a unified effort, but we’ll only be one part of it. “That’s what made the Super Bowl work.”

Ford Field opened in downtown Detroit in 2002, and it quickly became a major force in attracting national events to downtown Detroit.

Ford Field was the site of Super Bowl XL in 2006, and it went off without a hitch. Among the other major events at Ford Field were WrestleMania 23 in 2007, the NCAA’s men’s basketball Midwest Regional in 2008 and Final Four in 2009, and the NCAA’s Frozen Four hockey championship in 2010.

Financial challenges facing the City of Detroit obviously will play a factor, but a 12-year window opens adequate time to develop a favorable economic climate to host the NCAA’s football championship.

Ford Field is one of two domed stadiums in the northern climate zone that currently are suitable for the football championship. Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis is the other.A third will be the new stadium in Minneapolis-St. Paul, which earlier this year got approval in the Minnesota legislature for financial support for the project.

A number of stadiums around the country are logical candidates to be in the rotation on a regular basis. Among them are the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Dallas Cowboys Stadium, Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Sun Life Stadium in Miami and EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville.

The door could be open for northern stadiums without domes. In an interview earlier this week, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick touted Soldier Field as a potential venue.

“Absolutely, Chicago could,” Swarbrick said. So could Detroit.