Detroit passed over for CFP game because of auto show

The biggest game in college football won’t be coming to Detroit in 2019.

The College Football Playoff announced today that Santa Clara, Calif., won the bid to host the 2019 championship game over Detroit and other bidders.

CFP executive director Bill Hancock said the Detroit bid was lacking a key element for the week of Jan. 7, 2019: The inability to use the Cobo Center, which will be occupied by the North American International Auto Show.

635822323807709088-SMG-20151018-cja-al2-00“One thing that happened to Detroit, in this case, was the convention center was not available,” Hancock said. “We have significant events in the convention center. To their credit, they made other space available, some tenting outdoors. But just comparing their bid, because of that, with the other cities is what made the difference, frankly.”

Hancock’s comment on “tenting” was not a full representation of what Detroit offered on the west riverfront or the Belle Isle paddock area, according to Detroit Sports Commission executive director Dave Beachnau. He said the plan would have been “temporary structures that gave them the square footage that they needed.”

Regardless, the Detroit group knew not having Cobo would be a significant obstacle. But, still, Detroit reached the finalist stage.

Atlanta will host the CFP final in 2018. New Orleans will host in 2020. The CFP previously announced that the 2017 game will be in Tampa. It’s in Glendale, Ariz., this winter.

The CFP title game would have been another major milestone for Ford Field, which hosted the Super Bowl in 2006, the Final Four in 2009 and the Frozen Four in 2010.

During the site visit in July, Detroit organizers showed off many parts of downtown that would have been involved, from Comerica Park, where a championship tailgate would occur, to a potential fan fest at the West Riverfront Park, plus the new Detroit Red Wings arena.

Though the only two cold-weather cities were denied today — Detroit in 2019 and Minneapolis in 2020 — Hancock said weather is not an obstacle.

“I think the northern-tier cities are very much in the hunt for this,” he said.

Minneapolis was undone by already being set to host Super Bowl and Final Four, and Hancock said there may be fatigue among local fans by the time the CFP arrived.

Meanwhile, Hancock said he has seen Detroit’s prowess in the past, as he was part of the group that helped approve Detroit’s successful bid for the 2009 Final Four.

“We would expect the next bidding to happen in 2-3 years; I hope all these cities will bid again,” he said. “I hope they will all realize how close they were this time.”

Beachnau remains confident and thinks that there could be future workarounds to the auto show, such as new buildings in Detroit or negotiating with the Detroit Auto Dealers Association to temporarily use a portion of the Cobo space for the CFP.

“I think (the process) is a very positive spin for us, because we were there with every other major sports destination, and with all the momentum we have going in the city, with new development, new arena, it only bodes well for us that Detroit will be taken seriously again,” he said.

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