Leaving Las Vegas the right move for CFP championship game
Kenny Rogers was right.
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em. And know when to walk away.
After looking at the cards Las Vegas dealt for the 2025 College Football Playoff championship game, the CFP is poised to do the latter.
The CFP committee is currently in negotiations with Atlanta to move the 2025 game to that city. And as the Vegas situation unfolds, it’s pretty clear Atlanta is where the game should have been in the first place.
The scenario facing Las Vegas the week of the 2025 national championship game is a bit of a throwback — to the first Christmas.
There are no rooms at the inns.
This might seem impossible in a city like Vegas, which was built specifically for tourists. But the CFP is playing second-fiddle to the CES.
No, that is not the SEC written with a case of dyslexia. The CES is the International Consumer Electronics Show. If a company makes electronics, apparently you can expect that company to be in attendance.
According to the website: The CES has more than 44,000 attendees annually who represent nearly 2,300 different exhibitors from 58 countries and regions. All of those people need hotel rooms. And since this is an annual event, those people have precedent over the Johnny-come-lately College Football Playoff.
This begs multiple questions of the people involved in placing the championship game in Vegas in the first place because it reflects poorly on all of them.
On the Vegas side of things, how did they not realize that a convention that’s held every stinkin’ year might create a conflict? It seems pretty irresponsible to put the money and effort into trying to host a major sporting event concurrently if you forgot to check that box.
One wonders if the folks on the CFP side of the equation did their due diligence to make sure enough rooms would be available. It’s possible part of the failure was on that end.
But even if this hiccup is entirely on the people behind the Vegas bid, there’s still a question to be asked of the CFP organizers.
Why the heck are we putting the College Football Playoff national championship game in Las Vegas?
A site that makes no sense
There is an annoying tendency in sports for venues to be awarded events for little reason other than the stadium being flashy and new.
This is how we ended up with a Super Bowl and CFP national championship game in Santa Clara, Calif.
And with Allegiant Stadium being one of the NFL’s flashiest and newest venues, it’s a large part of Vegas’ pull to host the national championship game.
But as we are already seeing, a primary issue with holding any event in Vegas is that it is exceedingly difficult to be the biggest gig in town. In just about any other city, an event like the CFP title game can expect to get red-carpet treatment when it shows up. Have you been to Indianapolis in January?
In Vegas, it’s unlikely anyone will bat an eye at the CFP.
Football is up against Cirque du Soleil and Wayne Newton and Donny & Marie for entertainment dollars. And clearly people just can’t get enough of hearing “Danke Schoen” performed live. For another thing, it’s certainly telling that college football can’t even out-flex an electronics show.
Yet it also makes complete sense. Electronics are everywhere in Las Vegas. Outside of the sportsbooks, college football is a non-entity.
Vegas is a basketball town, if a sport must be chosen. The NBA holds a Summer League there. Multiple conferences hold their basketball tournaments there. UNLV basketball was the city’s first taste of sporting success from the 1970s-90s.
Football? Meh. UNLV draws somewhere just north of 20,000 per game.
A Pac-12 team would probably draw well at Allegiant. But a Pac-12 team has a snowball’s chance in Vegas of making a national title game by 2025.
Due to the nature of the College Football Playoff, the championship site needs to be fan-friendly. And that would not be achieved in Las Vegas.
Play where fans will show up
The CFP is quite possibly America’s most inconvenient postseason sports event. Fans are expected to potentially travel across the country twice in about 10 days. So it makes sense for at least one of those locations to be within driving distance for those fans.
Las Vegas is not that place.
Atlanta, on the other hand, is the picture-perfect location. College football culture is so engrained there that the sport’s Hall of Fame moved to Atlanta. And all but 1 CFP title game has featured a team from the SEC. Clemson has played in 4 of them.
Fans of any of those programs can get to Atlanta with ease. Like Indianapolis for the Final Four, CFP officials would be wise to make sure Atlanta never goes more than 5 years between hosting.
This is not the type of sporting event you can place anywhere and expect a good atmosphere. The Consumer Electronics Show helped the CFP dodge a bullet in Vegas.
The CFP won’t realize it, of course. Expect the 2027 title game to be awarded to Vegas. That’s usually what happens when situations like this arise.
It will be a mistake. But it won’t be the first or last time someone doubles down in Vegas and learns a lesson the hard way.