Orange Bowl

Orange Bowl eager to host College Football Playoff semifinal

Georgia Tech team celebrate after defeating Mississippi State at the 2014 Orange Bowl Game at Sun Life Stadium on Wednesday, December 31, 2014.
Georgia Tech team celebrate after defeating Mississippi State at the 2014 Orange Bowl Game at Sun Life Stadium on Wednesday, December 31, 2014. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

When it comes to ushering in the New Year, South Florida provides enough pizzazz to satiate the most voracious party appetites.

And this year, there’s a sexy option for college football fans.

The Capital One Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium will be one of two bowls to host a College Football Playoff national semifinal Thursday, Dec. 31.

The other Dec. 31 semifinal: the Cotton Bowl, with the national championship played Monday, Jan. 11, in Glendale, Arizona.

“We’re doing exceptionally well,’’ said Orange Bowl chief executive officer Eric Poms, who expects the game to be sold out. “The focus of the college football season is obviously going to be on who gets in the top four — and for us, who plays in South Florida.

“It will be electric that night.’’

Or it will be electric that day.

The Orange Bowl will not find out what teams it gets or what time the game will be played — the two kickoff slots are 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. — until the Dec. 6 decision by the 13-member selection committee is announced.

The semifinal will be run like a bowl game, with teams arriving the previous week and engaging in bowl-related activities. One team will stay at the Trump National Doral and the other at the Hollywood Diplomat Resort & Spa.

But as fun as it might be for many to plan an alternative New Year’s Eve at a football game that sends its winner to the national championship, television rights-holder ESPN has been very concerned that the ratings will be adversely effected by the holiday.

Even if every party has a TV tuned to the game, the mass gatherings at such public or private places will equate to fewer televisions being watched.

ESPN tried to convince the College Football Playoff to move the game to Saturday, Jan. 2, but the playoff folks were adamant about keeping the date.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the New Year’s Eve situation,’’ College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said at the Big 12 Conference Media Days. “We knew it from Day One. We’ve been planning for it. ESPN did ask us if we would mind moving, and we said, ‘No thanks.’

“…We’re excited about New Year’s Eve. I really believe we’re going to change the paradigm for New Year’s Eve in this country. When you go to your New Year’s Eve parties, they’d better have a television set so [you] can watch college football.”

Added Hancock: “Somebody said to me, ‘Well, my wife likes to dance with me on New Year’s Eve.’ And my response was, ‘Well, there’s halftime.’’’

Poms said the Dec. 31 date this year “actually works better in some respects because it’s in between the Christmas to New Year’s window and gives fans the ability to travel back in time for work and school on Monday, Jan. 4.”

There will be plenty of pageantry outside and inside the stadium for fans the day of the game, and the week leading up to it. Poms said OB organizers are still formulating plans to celebrate the special night.

“There’s a lot of positive energy behind this game,’’ Poms said. “This will be the must-see, must-do event on New Year’s Eve in South Florida.’’

Former University of Miami coach Butch Davis, now an ESPN college football analyst, covered last year’s semifinal in New Orleans between then-No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Ohio State.

“It was awesome,’’ Davis told the Miami Herald. “Last year the television ratings and fan participation and feedback were extraordinary. The Orange Bowl is a great venue, and the weather is almost always good, which allows people to get out and participate in all the tailgating, the fanfare, the lead-up.

“I think the Dec. 31 date will still be successful. Maybe some hard-core fans won’t watch because of the New Year’s Eve activities, but I don’t think it will be as big a deal as they’re projecting.

“I can’t imagine TVs not being on and people not watching.’’

▪ Orange Bowl tickets range from $125 to $290 and are available by going to orangebowl.org or calling 305-341-4702.

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