ARLINGTON, Texas — When major college football christens its four-team playoff in January 2015, Cotton Bowl and Cowboys Stadium executives expect their game and venue to be heavily involved.
National semifinals will rotate among six bowl games; three — the Sugar, Orange and Rose Bowls — have been selected, with the others still to be determined. Hopeful organizing committees, representing different cities and venues, will battle over the championship site with Super Bowl-like bids.
Only two short years ago, nasty weather and a fiasco involving the installment of temporary seats inside Cowboys Stadium — issues college football executives would surely seek to avoid — tarnished North Texas' first-ever Super Bowl experience, when Green Bay beat Pittsburgh on Feb. 6, 2011.
“That was just a freak storm,” said Cotton Bowl chairman Tommy Bain.
“That doesn't happen that often down here at all, and the seating situation is something that can be controlled. We've addressed that, not only with the Cowboys organization, but with the NFL.”
North Texas' unpredictable weather was among the primary reasons the Cotton Bowl lost its status as a premier college football postseason event, and was moved four years ago from Dallas' old, antiquated Cotton Bowl Stadium to Jerry Jones' majestic football palace in nearby Arlington.
But nasty winter weather still wreaked all kinds of havoc the week of Cowboys Stadium's first Super Bowl.
In addition to the slick roads and dangerous ice — which, in the days leading up to the game, fell off the stadium's roof and injured workers — the weather prevented the full installation of temporary seats, leaving about 1,250 Super Bowl ticket holders without a place to sit.
I know. I was there.
I covered the game along with three Oklahoman colleagues, and before the opening kickoff, I ventured down to field level and found several seat-less, livid fans crammed into the swanky Miller Lite Club.
Essentially, fans who'd expected to see the Super Bowl in person watched in a glorified sports bar.
I interviewed a handful of the affected fans, who described the thousands of dollars they had spent on transportation to Dallas, hotel accommodations and the tickets, many of which were purchased secondhand and well above face value.
Several angry ticket holders filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL; nearly two years later, the suit remains largely unsettled.
The North Texas Super Bowl Committee has tried and failed to be seriously considered for Super Bowls in the near future. Sites through the 2015 game are set, and in October, the NFL announced finalists for the 2016 and 2017 Super Bowls.
Cowboys Stadium wasn't one of them.
Although a timetable for deciding semifinal and title-game sites hasn't been set, the Cotton Bowl is widely expected to be in the semifinal rotation. But when bidding for an event like the national championship game, any North Texas organizing committee will certainly have to answer for the 2011 Super Bowl's problems.
“Part of that was outside of their control ... the weather, some of the involvement with the NFL, and that's a whole different story,” said John Crawford, a past Cotton Bowl chairman and son-in-law of the bowl game's founder.
“The whole Cowboys organization has made great headway in trying to see how they cannot let those kinds of things occur again. ... Jerry and Stephen Jones are right on top of doing everything to make the crowd experience and the audience that comes to that stadium a once-in-a-lifetime event.”