Bowl executives from several cities nationwide are expecting an RFP (Request for Proposal) from the BCS folks some time this month.
An RFP is the green light to bid for the college football playoff rotation, the chance to join the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls in the 12-year, high-payout format starting in the 2014 season.
The BCS is starting the all-are-welcome stage -- if you're interested, you can bid. The only catch, BCS director Bill Hancock says, is that a bidding bowl's stadium must hold “in the neighborhood” of 65,000 or more.
That rules out Hawaii, unfortunately.
More than 10 cities have expressed interest in the formal RFP process, according to a source.
There are prime contenders: Atlanta (Chick-fil-A), Dallas (Cotton Bowl) and Phoenix (Fiesta).
“There'd be a lot of surprise if it didn't end up being Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix,” said one high-ranking official from a BCS conference.
This makes sense since the BCS is leaning toward an East-West balance for semifinal games. Dallas is widely expected to earn the 2015 title game.
Also consider Orlando (Capital One), with a stadium renovation looming and its tourism prowess, an East Coast darkhorse.
Houston (Meineke Car Care), San Antonio (Alamo), San Diego (Holiday), San Francisco (Fight Hunger), Tampa (Outback), Jacksonville (Gator) are other potential candidates.
Should be room for at least one wild card here (Charlotte, anyone?) but it has to be somewhere reasonably warm.
The cities will pitch why they are deserving, then the BCS folks will decide who makes the cut, probably by late spring. Conference commissioners will be involved.
The access bowls are expected to host at least one semifinal every three years. (See Dennis Dodd's story from early January on the subject.)
The access bowls outside of the semifinal don't affect the actual playoff but are still under the high-dollar playoff umbrella (think BCS, without the Big East's automatic bid).
The Rose, Sugar and Orange are “contract” bowls that cater to their affiliations when not in the semifinal -- Big 12 vs. SEC in the Sugar, Big Ten vs. Pac-12 in Rose and ACC vs. SEC/Big Ten/Notre Dame in Orange.
If the highest-rated small-conference school doesn't make the top four, it still has a guaranteed spot in a host bowl.