The College Football Playoff championship was a letdown. We’re not talking about the actual game here. Despite a vocal majority being so tired of the Alabama-Clemson matchup, the game itself was equal parts shocking and exciting.
The disappointing part was the overall atmosphere and location of the game. The Bay Area not being the right choice to host the CFP title has been discussed ad nauseam. And let’s be clear: this wasn’t a week-long extravaganza with events in San Francisco (about an hour away from Levi’s Stadium with traffic) like Super Bowl 50. All press conferences, hotels, and parties over the weekend were in or near San Jose (15 minutes from Levi’s Stadium, which is in Santa Clara). Uber drivers didn’t know why streets were blocked off, restaurants weren’t crowded, and local newscasts focused more on the Golden State Warriors. It was almost like any other weekend in the Bay Area.
Though the criticism may have been overblown, there’s a simple solution for the playoff committee moving forward: Rotate the national championship through the New Year’s Six Bowl sites a la the old BCS days. No true college football fan has issues with the Sugar (New Orleans), Cotton (Dallas/North Texas), Peach (Atlanta), Orange (Miami), Fiesta (Phoenix) and Rose Bowls (Los Angeles). In fact, if you’re ever going to have a title game in California, it should only be at the Rose Bowl and never Silicon Valley. The CFP committee shouldn’t have a problem with this because all of those venues are home to built-in traditional games in big cities and also happen to be sparkling NFL stadiums (except for the Rose Bowl, but who has a problem with the Rose Bowl?).
CFP executive director Bill Hancock has said before that their goal is “10 in 10”—taking the title game to 10 different cities in the first 10 years of the playoff. It’s a thoughtful idea, trying to include everyone. It’s also risky to pick a neutral site when you don’t know which teams will be playing in the game upon scheduling. This isn’t quite like the Super Bowl. The Bay Area was also at a disadvantage following last year’s title game in Atlanta, which was a home game for both Alabama and Georgia. The West Coast is a haul for two fan bases from the Deep South and Southeast.
The indifference in the area wasn’t surprising to locals. Stanford is about 30 minutes away from San Jose and those fans couldn’t be less interested in taking advantage of their beautiful stadium on Saturdays—that’s true even when the Cardinal are in the national conversation. This year’s Pac 12 championship at Levi’s Stadium between Washington and Utah involved another sparse crowd, providing further proof that this community is not the right place for such events.
It’s a nice gesture to spread the title game around the country, but if that community doesn’t care, why bother? Fans traveling cross-country for the game want to feel like they’re being welcomed to a giant end-of-the-season college football party. They want to feel like everybody around them shares a similar kind of spirit—especially after spending so much money to make the trip. They want to chat up locals, waiters and Uber drivers about what it’s like hosting the big event. But that wasn’t the experience this time.
Over the next five years, the title game will travel to New Orleans (2020), Miami (’21), Indianapolis (’22), Los Angeles (’23) and Houston (’24). There are no foreseeable issues with those locations given they’re near top college football towns and recruiting hotbeds.
The CFP won’t consider bids past the 2024 season for a few more years. Hopefully by then, they’ll realize that it’s in everybody’s best interest—the committee and the fans—to pick a place that cares about college football. — By Laken Litman
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• Clemson wanted to make it clear it was this year’s best team, but the Tigers will save the dynasty debate for another time. (By Ross Dellenger)
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Listen Up: Joe Buck Joins the SI Media Podcast
The voice of nearly every major sporting event on Fox, Joe Buck joins SI’s Jimmy Traina on the latest SI Media Podcast. Buck discusses the fallout from botching Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s name, how his year went calling two NFL games each week, how Troy Aikman has improved as an analyst, why people have been unfair to Jason Witten, the best call of his career and much more.
From the Vault: Happy Anniversary, Dwight Clark
Twenty-seven years ago this week, Dwight Clark stretched his 6’4” frame as high as it could go and curled his fingers around a lofty pass from quarterback Joe Montana. When Clark came down, he had the 1981 NFC Championship with him. The career-defining moment resurfaced numerous times in 2018 as Clark lost his battle with ALS in June. But “The Catch,” as perfectly captured above by Walter Iooss Jr., will endure forever.
Best of the Rest
Editor’s note: Below are some of our favorite stories of the week not published by SI. This week’s list is curated by Laken Litman.
• Try not to cry while reading this lovely, personal tribute to Tyler Trent from the IndyStar’s Gregg Doyel, who spent a lot of time with the Purdue superfan the past few months while he was dying of cancer.
• ESPN’s Holly Rowe and Maria Taylor are two of the hardest working reporters in sports journalism—they’re also roommates, as The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach chronicles.
• In this era of college football, offense wins championships. A look at the modernization of the sport by Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde.
• Take some time to read and debate Anne Helen Peterson’s piece on “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation” via Buzzfeed.
• The Westlake High School football team in Austin is getting together this weekend for the Eagles-Saints playoff game. Why? To watch alums Nick Foles and Drew Brees go head-to-head, via NOLA.com’s Christopher Dabe.
• The Wall Street Journal’s Brian Costa examines why Clemson’s all-star freshman QB Trevor Lawrence should sit out the next two years.
Editor’s note: What kind of stories and content would you like to see in the Weekend Read? Let’s chat at SIWeekendRead@gmail.com.