A decision on where to play the Sugar Bowl game Jan. 2 will be made in early October, as college football officials pursue parallel plans that include an option to move the game to Atlanta.
Sugar Bowl Executive Director Paul Hoolahan, after a meeting with bowl championships series commissioners Tuesday in Chicago, said, “We want in every way possible to conduct our event in the state of Louisiana,” but acknowledged it was difficult to move forward when “you’re ejected from your home venue.”
A BCS official who attended the meeting said he thought it was important for the Sugar Bowl to exhaust the idea of keeping the event local but guessed that, in all likelihood, that the game was headed for Georgia.
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has left the Louisiana Superdome, site of the Sugar Bowl, unusable for this year’s game and possibly for years to come.
The two-track plan involves plans to play the game at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge after pregame festivities in New Orleans.
Plans are also being developed to shift the game to Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.
Hoolahan said he thought the game had “a 50-50" chance of being played in Baton Rouge but that may be optimistic thinking, given what the Sugar Bowl is up against.
Hoolahan said the Sugar Bowl needed 32,000 hotel rooms in New Orleans to accommodate visitors but acknowledged at least two primary downtown lodging sites, the Hyatt and Hilton, would not be available because they are being used in the hurricane relief effort.
“The French Quarter was not really damaged,” he said. “By 60 days, I’m convinced, maybe less, that place will be up and humming and running.”
The big question, he said, remains, “Where do we house everybody?”
There are also significant transportation, health and security issues.
“Everything’s got to be ironed out,” Hoolahan said. “We can’t just go on somebody’s promise. We have to have iron-clad guarantees that all these things are going to be effective and in place.”
The Sugar Bowl is one of four major bowls in the BCS national title-game rotation and provides “an anchor” for the Southeastern Conference in years when its champion is not in the BCS title game. The Sugar Bowl is scheduled as the site of the BCS championship game in January 2008.
The SEC title game, scheduled this year on Dec. 3, is played at the Georgia Dome.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said that if the Sugar Bowl couldn’t be played in Baton Rouge, he would want the game moved somewhere within the heart of SEC country.
“Atlanta, of course, meets that criteria,” Slive said. “We’re very appreciative of the Sugar Bowl’s sensitivities to us in thinking about the options.”
The Peach Bowl will be played in the Georgia Dome on Dec. 30 and the Atlanta Falcons play the Carolina Panthers there Jan. 1, but Hoolahan has been assured the SEC can handle the short turn-around between events.
“Those people down there pretty much know the drill,” he said.