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Tampa Finalist for College Football Championship

Tampa's Raymond James Stadium is an apparent long shot finalist to host the first championship game in Division I college football.

While the Tampa Bay Times quotes Bowl Championship Series Chief Operating Officer Michael Kelly as saying Raymond James Stadium and Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, are the two finalists to host the game on January 12, 2015, ESPN cites sources who say those were the only two communities submitting bids.

In addition, those sources tell ESPN Cowboys Stadium, which has seen crowds of over 90,000 for college football, is a "virtual lock" to host the championship game.

ESPN reports the decision almost appears to be a foregone conclusion.

Because Cowboys Stadium, which hosts the AT&T Cotton Bowl, is such an overwhelming favorite for the inaugural championship, several communities opted not to bid, sources said. "It's pretty clear to everyone that it's headed to Cowboys Stadium," an industry source said.

Cowboys Stadium will also host the NCAA men's Final Four basketball championship in April 2014.

All the same, the Tampa Bay Times says members of the organizations that submitted the Tampa bid remain optimistic.

"It's an event that we're interested in, and if not the first year, we're interested in the near future," said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, the non-profit which submitted the bid with the help of the Tampa Sports Authority, manager of Raymond James Stadium. "Having hosted four Super Bowls, several NCAA championships and the Republican National Convention, I think we've proven to be a great host," Higgins said. "We're extremely excited about the opportunity and we're rooting for Tampa," said Eric Hart, president and CEO of the Tampa Sports Authority. "Let's just see what the vote brings."

BCS officials are expected to announce their decision at their annual meeting in Pasadena April 23-25.

The 2014 Division I college football season will be the first that ends with a four-team playoff after the regular season. Semifinals will be held on January 1, 2015, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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