Opportunity Knocking. Will NOLA Answer?

New Orleans needs a matchup of premier programs to kick off the college football season

Sometimes you don’t have to come up with an idea to benefit from it.

Those responsible for recruiting major sporting events to New Orleans need to take heed.

Last year was a miserable year for the local sports industry, with the Crescent City missing out on each of the nation’s biggest three sporting events – the Super Bowl, College Football National Championship Game and the Final Four. In addition, the change to college football’s post-season – from the Bowl Championship Series to a four-team playoff – means New Orleans won’t automatically host the championship game every four years. It’s now bid out, like the Super Bowl. Instead, the city, via the Sugar Bowl, will host a semi-final game every three years. 

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It’s time for our city leaders to develop a marquee game to kick off the season in order to help keep New Orleans in the running of top destination cities.

LSU is just one college program that is taking advantage of the changing college football landscape.

Yesterday, the Tigers announced they will once again play in a neutral site kickoff game. The team will return to Houston to begin their 2017 season against BYU in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff at NRG Stadium.

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Les Miles’ squad seems to enjoy the first game spotlight against other powerhouse programs. LSU is slated to play Wisconsin at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field to open the 2016 season. In 2018, they’ll play Miami at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. They played North Carolina in Atlanta in 2010, Oregon in 2011 and TCU in 2013 Arlington, and in 2014 began against Wisconsin in Houston.

With the introduction of the college football playoff, elite teams are willing to schedule marquee matchups at the beginning of the season because the games pay well (LSU will make between $4 million and $5 million from the game against BYU) and a win gets positive media attention and higher poll rankings (key to qualifying for the playoff). If a team were to lose, it’s not seen as completely negative because of the national television exposure to recruits and the fact that poll voters have short memories if the team rebounds and has a strong remainder to their season.

It’s beyond time for New Orleans to host a matchup of major programs in a game to kick off the college football season. Another end of summer event in the city would be beneficial for local hotels and restaurants. Without the restrictions of automatic bowl tie-ins, the committee could invite the best two teams and, more importantly, traveling fan bases who will follow their team to the Crescent City for a weekend of fun. LSU sold out of its allotment of 35,000 tickets for their 2014 season opener against Wisconsin in Houston.

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New Orleans can play this game better than Houston or Dallas. But the city has to get off of the sidelines and get into the game.




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