Decision on Sugar Bowl expected next month
Monday, September 19, 2005 - 5:35 p.m.
By Ted Lewis
Sugar Bowl officials will meet with the 11 Division I-A conference commissioners Tuesday to discuss where this season's game might be played, but no decision is expected on the site until next month.
"We're zeroing in on what is in the best interests for all parties," said Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan, who, along with bowl president Mark Romig, will address the commissioners in Chicago. "We have to keep our options open on parallel tracks.
"But the bottom line is that we are prepared to do whatever is necessary to keep the Sugar Bowl a viable player in the BCS rotation."
With the Superdome unavailable, the options for the Jan. 2 bowl are LSU's Tiger Stadium, with most fans housed in New Orleans-area hotels, or another site like the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Romig said his preference is to play in Baton Rouge, although he was aware that factors such as the lack of hotel space might make that difficult.
"We are still in the research and discovery stage," he said. "We want to be part of the recovery of Louisiana, and that means playing the game in Louisiana.
"But we are also cognizant that the availability of hotel rooms is a major part of the equation because fans have to stay in the area where the game is being played.''
In normal years, visiting Sugar Bowl fans occupy upward of 30,000 of the city's 38,000 hotel rooms. But, even if most of the downtown hotels normally used during the Sugar Bowl are fully functional, many rooms will be used by hotel workers still out of their homes and by recovery workers.
"It is a whole different landscape," Romig said. "You got to add the recovery workers and their needs to the equation as well."
Atlanta would have plentiful hotel rooms because the Peach Bowl is played on Dec. 30 and those fans would have departed by the time most Sugar Bowl fans would be arriving.
Romig added that the ultimate decision on this year's game will be made by the Sugar Bowl's executive committee, with input from the BCS, and especially the SEC.
Beyond this season's game is the larger question of when and if the Superdome is refurbished.
Hoolahan said his hope is that the building, which was severely damaged both by the storm and those who used it as a shelter, will be usable for the 2006 season.
"We need to see it repaired and up to snuff as soon as possible, whether it's for the short term or the long term," he said. "We're going to lose this year, but we can't afford to lose another one with the new contract cycle beginning."
The Sugar Bowl is scheduled to play host to both the championship game and its regular bowl game at the end of the 2007 season as part of the new "double hosting" system. Hoolahan said last week that the Sugar Bowl faced the risk of losing its spot in the championship game rotation if a major stadium is not available in New Orleans in 2007.
Hoolahan also said the Sugar Bowl offices in the Superdome were ransacked during the stadium's use as a shelter, but that little of the bowl's memorabilia collection was missing.
"They looked first in the kitchen and then in every desk and filing cabinet, I guess for money or valuables," he said. "So there wasn't much to take, but it's a real mess."
After today's meeting, Sugar Bowl officials will work with a subcommittee chaired by SEC assistant commissioner Mark Womack until a decision on this year's game is made.
"Whatever we do this year is just a temporary solution," Romig said. "The Sugar Bowl ultimately will be back in New Orleans."
Ted Lewis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 232-5071.