Now that we know that it is possible to play a championship game of football outside in the cold elements, the idea is one that seems to be gaining traction in cold weather cities. Hosting a Super Bowl is the biggest ticket there is in the football world, but hosting a college football championship or a conference championship is not all that bad of a gig either. With Chicago making a push to one day host a Super Bowl, perhaps the Windy City could become a more ideal destination for the Big Ten Championship Game as well.
According to Pro Football Talk, Chicago is reviewing plans to potentially add 5,000 seats to Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears. The goal would be to make Soldier Field an attractive venue for a potential Super Bowl by increasing the seating capacity to a more desirable number for the NFL. But hey, if the whole Super Bowl thing does not work out, the Big Ten Championship Game could make a nice home in Soldier Field. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has suggested the conference is not glued to Indianapolis and that rotating between cities could be an option down the line. If that is the case, Chicago would easily be one of the top targets. The Big Ten is based in Chicago and can easily serve as the central point for the entire conference even with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers this year. The biggest obstacle in place would be the NFL schedule. Because Chicago has a natural grass field, hosting an extra game not involving the home town Bears does come with some mild concerns, but there are a number of stadiums that serve dual purposes for the NFL and college football even with a natural turf (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Tampa for example), so it can be done, especially for just one game.
The first three Big Ten Championship Games have been held in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The ability to host the game under a roof is an attraction for the Big Ten, but it takes the conference away from what is supposed to differentiate Big Ten football from other brands. Games being played in the elements in the fall are supposed to be what makes the Big Ten different, but playing the championship game inside gets away from the typical Big Ten image.
In 2012 the game attracted just 41,260 fans and in the first year the Big Ten was accused of paying people to fill seats. Last fall the Big Ten Championship Game welcomed 66,002 fans to watch Michigan State upset undefeated Ohio State. Would moving the game outdoor sin a larger city, that is supposedly much more convenient to travel to, have an impact on the future ticket sales of the game? Perhaps not as much as the game’s participants and the fan bases they would bring with them.
Ohio State will help pack the stadium no matter where the game is played. Michigan will as well. Perhaps Illinois or Northwestern would do their part if the game was played in Chicago, but there is evidence that would argue otherwise.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher got together for a joint press conference in Miami today as the two coaches prepare to face one another in the Orange Bowl on December 30. Harbaugh said he is looking forward to the matchup but seemed to be much more interested in getting a chance to witness one of the pregame traditions of Florida State; Chief Osceola riding on Renegade and planting a spear in the turf.
“I’ve never been to a game at Florida State,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve always wanted to go there and see what that atmosphere was like in person. This will be as close as I’ve ever been to that. I’m excited for that. I know I’m going to get some chills when that Appaloosa comes riding out there.”
Of course, this isn’t exactly a home game for the Seminoles, so sometimes pregame traditions are put on ice for the bowl season. Knowing this, Harbaugh made his case and made sure everyone listening knows just how cool he thinks it is.
“I want to see that. That’s one of the cool things,” Harbaugh said. “We have cool things and other teams have cool things, but that is right up there as one of the coolest things.”
Fortunately for Harbaugh, he will indeed get a chance to witness this pregame routine in person. Florida State Associate Athletics Director Jason Dennard said on Twitter Chief Osceola and Renegade will make the trip to Miami from Tallahassee.
The Houston Cougars are reportedly hoping to have a new head coach named as soon as this coming weekend. As expected, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and former LSU head coach Les Miles are among the final candidates being considered for the job.
One candidate no longer to be in the mix, according to a report from Joseph Duarte of The Houston Chronicle, is Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. That should be good news for Oklahoma, as it likely means Riley will be back in Norman for at least one more season to run the offense (and with Baker Mayfield coming back for 2017, the Sooners offense should continue to rack up some big numbers).
As noted by Duarte, five total candidates were vetted by Houston for the head coaching job. Kiffin, Miles and interim Houston coach Todd Orlando and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite along with Riley all were checked by the university as a decision is approaching.
Baylor introduced new head coach Matt Rhule in a press conference setting today, and it would seem Rhule has already gotten some opportunities to speak to his new players in Waco. One player in particular delivered a promise to the new Bears head coach. Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon reportedly made a bowl game guarantee to Rhule.
Baylor started the season with a 6-0 record but dropped their last six games to enter the bowl season at just 6-6. The Broncos of Boise State finished the season with a 10-2 record and second in the Mountain Division behind Wyoming in the Mountain West Conference. Boise State has won six bowl game sin the last seven seasons between head coaches Chris Petersen (now at Washington) and Bryan Harsin.
Personally, I’m still trying to figure out how many people thought pairing Boise State and Baylor in a bowl game would be a good idea, considering the unfortunate story surrounding former Boise State and Baylor player Sam Ukwuachu. We can focus plenty on the non-controversial stuff leading up to the Cactus Bowl, but that is one story that cannot be totally overlooked either, especially given the current state of the Baylor football program.
Baylor and Boise State have never faced each other in football. The two will play in the Cactus Bowl in Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, Dec. 27.
There was a certain irony in seeing Penn State win and celebrate a Big Ten championship in Indianapolis on Saturday night. Penn State, five years after the horrifying revelations of the Jerry Sandusky scandal ripped through the program, university, and community, was slammed hard by the NCAA, whose offices are located in Indianapolis with sanction terms that were thought to be crippling for the program at the time in the summer of 2012.
So, with Penn State clinching the Big Ten title in the home city of the NCAA headquarters, what did NCAA President Mark Emmert have to say about it?
“I thought Penn State’s season was spectacular,” Emmert said while taking questions at the Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York on Wednesday: “What coach [James] Franklin has done there, I think, is very, very impressive.”
Emmert has been criticized by many who have taken issue with the NCAA getting involved with any decisions regarding Penn State’s football program in the aftermath of the Sandusky fallout following the release of the Freeh Report, which the NCAA used in place of its own in-depth investigation.
“It’s great to see it bounce back and do well,” Emmert said of Penn State’s 11-2 season. “While people will occasionally say those sanctions were meant to cripple the university, that’s not true at all. I’ve always said and always believed Penn state is a wonderful university, because it is, and secondly it’s got great sports traditions.”
Emmert may say the sanctions dropped on Penn State were never meant to cripple the university, but that is exactly what a four-year postseason ban and a massive reduction of available scholarships (reduced to 15 per year as opposed to the typical 25) is intended to do. Regardless, Emmert had nothing but praise for Penn State’s 2016 season.
“How can you not be pleased that they’re playing good football again? That’s very good stuff.”