The streets of New Orleans typically would be awash in purple and gold and orange today as college football fans take over the Big Easy in anticipations of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game Monday night.
Instead, the city is in mourning after another heartbreaking loss by their beloved Saints in the NFL playoffs.
College football fans must wait another week — until Monday, Jan. 13 — to find out who will be crowned the next champion. That means there will be 17 days between the playoff semifinal games and the national title game.
Why such a delay?
When the schedule for the College Football Playoff was created, the semifinals were to take place on Dec. 31 two out of every three years.
But hosting the championship on Jan. 6 would not allow a full week for the teams to prepare for the title game. So the playoff management group reworked the schedule with its TV partners to move the national championship to Jan. 13.
The Rose and Sugar bowls, who are part of the semifinals rotation, were unwilling to move from their traditional date of New Year’s Day and semifinals played on New Year’s Eve were unpopular. As a result, the playoff committee moved this year’s semifinals — the Peach and Fiesta bowls — to Dec. 28.
“What we were thinking was not as many people are able to watch the games on New Year’s Eve that they might on some other day and we want as many people as possible to be able to watch,” College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said. “Looking back, we tried to do something special on New Year’s Eve and we found out it wasn’t the best, so we were able to pivot rather quickly to move to Saturday.”
Hancock said at the time, the group knew this would mean there would be a layoff between the semifinals and Jan. 13, but the tradeoff of moving those games to Dec. 28 would be worth it in the long run.
The playoff group did look at moving the championship game back to Jan. 6, but it turned out some of the venues in New Orleans slated to be used for events leading up to the game were not available.
“We want the city to be at its best,” Hancock said. “We want to be able to showcase the entire city.”
Hancock called this year’s scheduling quirk an anomaly, with the schedule getting back on track next season. The semifinals will be played on Jan. 1, 2021, and the national championship game is set for Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
Clemson and LSU have adapted to the odd schedule.
“I’d prefer to just go play, to be honest with you, if I was writing the schedule out,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said after beating Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. “But hey, things always happen the way they’re supposed to, and in this particular case I’m really glad that we’ve got a couple of extra days, we can give these guys a little time to rest and recover because it was a long trip and very, very physical game.”
He said he doesn’t think the layoff will hurt overall interest in this year’s championship game.
“I don’t feel any diminishing of interest in all,” said Hancock. “I think the matchup is so phenomenal that the sports world is really looking forward to it.”
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