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College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hanbad.(Photo: Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports)

College football’s national championship is headed north.

Indianapolis is among four cities selected to host the College Football Playoff’s national championship game after the 2020-2023 seasons. In January 2022, when the championship game is played at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, it will be the first time in the modern history of the sport its national title has been won at a location outside the South or West.

“When we were talking about sites, we kept asking ourselves, ‘Why not a northern tier city?’” Bill Hanbad, the Playoff’s executive director, told USA TODAY Sports. “‘Why does college football always have to have its championship in the Sun Belt?’ We’re pleased with our decision to go north.”

Indianapolis was among three first-time locations selected. Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. — site of the Orange Bowl and several Bowl Championship Series national championships — will host the national championship game in January 2021, after the 2020 season. In January 2023, Los Angeles will host at the new stadium that’s currently under construction at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif. In January 2024, the game will be played at NRG Stadium in Houston.

“We said we were gonna move the championship game around when we started the Playoff,” Hanbad said. “We were serious about that and now we’ve done it.”

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In its first three seasons of the Playoff, the national title game has been played in Arlington, Texas, Glendale, Ariz., and Tampa. The game will be played in Atlanta this season, and in Santa Clara, Calif., and New Orleans, respectively, the next two seasons.

The CFP’s management committee — made up of 10 FBS conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director — awarded the championship games for the 2020-2023 seasons without a traditional bidding process. With the goal of playing “10 in 10,” as Hanbad put it — playing the first 10 years of the championship game in 10 different cities — the management committee chose instead to identify potential cities and to negotiate with them. The process was similar to how the first two championship sites were awarded.

“This decision was a thoughtful and deliberate process,” Hanbad said. “We are very sensitive to the time and expense involved in preparing for a bid like this. And having gone through two bid cycles in the past, it didn’t make sense to subject some cities to the cost of a third bid at this time when we knew we wanted the ’10 in 10’ (years).”

All three new cities have demonstrated experience hosting big events. Indianapolis has been a frequent host for the NCAA’s Final Four and the Super Bowl, as well as the Big Ten’s football championship. Hanbad said the management committee considered the potential for inclement winter weather. The average high temperature in Indianapolis in January is 34.5 degrees. But Hanbad noted the “terrific domed stadium” and a concise downtown footprint.

The new NFL stadium in Los Angeles is scheduled to be completed in 2020 at an estimated cost of $2.6 billion.

“We’ve seen all the drawings,” Hanbad said. “They’ve walked us through the site. It will be a terrific stadium. I think the players and coaches are gonna love it.”

Awarding the bid to the new stadium is further confirmation that at least for the immediate future, the Rose Bowl will not be a host of the national championship game. The iconic venue will remain in the College Football Playoff semifinal rotation and a New Year’s Six bowl.

Houston’s NRG Stadium, which hosts the Texas Bowl, has hosted Super Bowls and Final Fours.

“It’s new to us, but it’s certainly not new to top-flight events,” Hanbad said.

Hanbad called the locations for the sites “a great sign about the health of college football.”

“The interest, the demand, the fact that we’re bringing the event to different cities, all are positive messages about where college football is today,” he said.

Hanbad said the management committee might use a more traditional bidding process in the future.

“We haven’t foreclosed the possibility … for this cycle it was the right way to go,” Hanbad said.


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