Orange Bowl

Orange Bowl a candidate for 2018 College Football Playoff championship game

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

The College Football Playoff won’t be expanding beyond four teams any time soon, and the Orange Bowl folks will find out a week from Wednesday whether or not South Florida will host the championship game in January 2018.

So said CFP executive director Bill Hancock, who broke bread with several Orange Bowl Community staff members and some local media Monday afternoon at Fort Lauderdale’s YOLO restaurant.

This year’s Orange Bowl will be played on New Year’s Eve, as it was last year, but this time as one of the CFP’s national semifinals. A semifinal will return here following the 2018 season. The Orange Bowl’s got a chance, along with Atlanta, Houston and Santa Clara, to host the championship game following the 2017 season. They’ll find out Nov. 4 when the sites for the games following the 2017-2019 seasons are announced.

If the Orange Bowl doesn’t get the collegiate version of the Super Bowl, then look for it to make a run at the January 2021 and January 2023 games. Hancock said the post-renovation reduced capacity of Sun Life Stadium, 65,000, wouldn’t hurt South Florida in the selection process.

Discussions around the CFP concern less “where?” than “who?,” which often leads to “how many?”

Last year’s initial four-team playoff wound up wildly successful financially and in television ratings, but perhaps mostly in validation of the CFP selection committee. It didn’t have to defend its choice of Ohio State over TCU or Baylor once the Buckeyes won the championship.

Despite the success, arguments over who got in and who got left out prompted talk of expansion to eight.

“There is no talk about expanding in our group,” Hancock said. “We have a four-team tournament for 12 years. People who want to expand fall into two categories. One, they want more football. Good grief, what a great problem to have. If we were making widgets and were the College Widget Company and people wanted more of our widgets, we’d be delighted. And they think in some way that more teams would allow more teams to compete that wouldn’t otherwise.”

Hancock’s stated reasons for staying at four sound, ironically, similar to the reasons used by anti-playoff factions through the years: preserving the slim margin of error that gives the regular season its meaning; keeping meaning in the overall bowl system; and the players’ physical well-being.

“Talking with both coaches, [Oregon’s] Mark [Helfrich] and [Ohio State’s] Urban [Meyer], after the [title] game, both said their players could not have done another week against a quality opponent,” Hancock said. “What happens in the regular season is very rarely do you get back-to-back-to-back games against super quality teams. There always seems to be, if the schedule falls right, that you have a breather in between. That allows the players to recover from nicks, bumps and bruises.”

“With three back-to-back-to-back in a tournament, it would be very difficult. It would really change the nature of the game.”