Hometown Report: Sac State narrowly loses bid to host prep bowl games

Published: Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 - 8:06 pm

CARSON – It's the "wow experience" that Roger Blake wants high school athletes to experience at the end of a championship season, particularly if the executive director of the CIF and his selection-process crew receive a "wow" bid from a venue and city.

Sacramento State expected to land the CIF State Football Championship Bowl games for the next two seasons but lost out in the most competitive bid process since the bowls started in 2006.

The title games instead will remain at the Home Depot Center here through the 2014 campaign, Blake announced Friday night. In football parlance, Hornet Stadium lost out on a last-ditch dive to the end zone, but the campus is hardly out of the running long term.

"There's two parts to this," Blake said. "This is a world-class facility here and a great opportunity for kids to have an experience of a lifetime. It's like when kids walk out onto the (Sleep Train Arena) floor and the look on their face, and they say, 'Wow!' It's the same here."

Blake said Sac State offered plenty of that "wow" feel last week for all comers – players, coaches and fans – for the first Northern California Regional title games, including the Folsom-De La Salle Open showcase contest that drew an announced crowd of 10,197 (Sac State officials were certain it looked closer to 15,000). Sac State, Blake said, is firmly planted on the CIF radar as a premier venue.

"Oh, gosh, yes," he said. "It's a great spot. Can't ask for anything more. We definitely want more Regional games there, and CIF Bowl games could wind up there, too."

Though the NorCal Open crowd was more than the combined announced crowd of 9,500 that attended the three CIF Bowl games on the second day of the two-day run last season, the final decision for a bid runs deeper. It includes the venue, hotel accommodations and, yes, finances.

Money talks, even at the high school level.

Blake and the CIF also considered the championship venue imbalance if Sac State – or Hughes Stadium – won the state bowl bid. That would mean the premier prep championship events in football and basketball would be housed in the state capital.

Sleep Train Arena has been the site for the NorCal and state championship games since 1991. The NBA venue continues to win the bidding war, but Blake said that may change. He would like to see a North-South rotation of title events when the deals expire.

The Sleep Train Arena contract ends after the 2013-14 basketball season and the new Home Depot contract after the 2014 football season.

"We want to continue that 'wow' factor, and long term, the hope and plan is to rotate these great events so people in Northern California can see state football and people in Southern California can see state basketball," Blake said.

Sac State athletic director Terry Wanless said he looks forward to his campus securing future NorCal and state bowl football games. He also understands that patience is part of this game.

"We showed what we can do, the facilities, the community interest, the cost analysis," Wanless said. "We've got a lot of good things."

Sac State athletic facilities and operation manager Steve Tebbs said: "We're in the state capital, a great city and school. We should have those games here. L.A. will always try to one-up us on the weather, but we can handle the weather here."

Oh, yes, the weather. It rained to near flood levels in 2010, reducing Home Depot to a murky, muddy mess. It rained throughout the two title games on Friday, albeit on FieldTurf.

Weather is the one "wow" element Blake hasn't solved.

"(Assistant director) Ron Nocetti swears I've jinxed it here with all the rain the last few years," Blake cracked. "I'm doing my best."

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