MIAMI DOLPHINS

Sun Life Stadium renovations won’t guarantee college football title game

 

Bill Hancock, who runs college football’s new playoff system, said the condition of Sun Life Stadium was not a game-changer, and that South Florida simply lost out to superior bids for the 2017 title game.

abeasley@MiamiHerald.com

When Dolphins owner Stephen Ross announced his latest stadium renovation plan last month, he stressed his desire to bring back “world-class” sporting events — including the College Football Playoff Championship Game.

But Bill Hancock, who runs the sport’s new playoff system, reiterated Friday that the deteriorating condition of Sun Life Stadium was not the reason South Florida was passed over for the title game in 2017.

“There’s a misconception that somehow the stadium was a factor, and it wasn’t,” Hancock said here Friday, at the site of Saturday’s Final Four.

Asked if the proposed renovations — a roughly $350 million overhaul that Ross would pay with private dollars in return for property tax relief — would help future Miami bids, Hancock was noncommittal.

“Oh, you never know,” Hancock said. “All bids are different. You don’t know who they’re going to be competing against next time. Any improvement to any stadium certainly can’t hurt. But we haven’t had any issues with the stadium.”

Sun Life Stadium was a finalist to host the 2017 championship game but lost out to Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. But the stadium will host a national semifinal game in 2016.

That means the renovations — should the plan pass the Miami-Dade County Commission — could not be at a stage then that would interfere with the game.

A Dolphins spokesman said Friday that construction would take approximately three years, and it wouldn’t disrupt the schedule at the stadium.

If the Dolphins wait until after the coming NFL season to begin renovations, the work would likely be finished in time for the 2018 national championship game.

The team hopes to have the matter settled with the county by August, in time to bid on the 2019 Super Bowl.

The NFL has made it clear that it will not bring its championship game back to South Florida without major fixes to the facility.

But Hancock indicated Friday that the College Football Playoff has no such concerns.

“What happened to them in our bidding was, the two cities that got it [Glendale, Ariz., and Tampa] batted a thousand with their bids,” Hancock added. “Miami’s was a great bid but it just fell a little short of the other two.”

The 2018 title game still needs a home, with a decision likely coming next spring. Larry Wahl, a spokesman for the Orange Bowl, said that though nothing is definite, he “would imagine” that South Florida will again raise its hand for that game.

The Dolphins hope to have clarity on their stadium plan long before then.

“Anything you can do to improve your bid can’t hurt, as [Hancock] said,” Wahl said. “You certainly want to put your best foot forward in just about every phase.”

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