Is Atlanta the capital of college football? It's hard to imagine a city that could make a better case. Here are nine reasons Atlanta can claim the title:
1. SEC championship game
The SEC championship game has sold out every year since it moved to Atlanta in 1994, with only one exception (1995). The SEC says the current renewal rate is 99 percent, and with the wait list growing to 20,000 the conference is no longer accepting additions to the list. Participating schools received just 16,000 tickets each last year. Georgia said that only allowed it to distribute 12,000 to 13,000 to season-ticket holders after receiving 42,000 requests.
2. Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game
There have been kickoff games before, but perhaps none as successful as the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game has been since its inception in 2008. With the exception of Virginia Tech this year, the games have paired teams in the Top 25 each year. Alabama, which has won three of the last four national championships, is playing in the game for the third time and has another game scheduled against West Virginia next year. The game has become so successful it's been able to expand, featuring two games last season and having scheduled two for next season. It's also revived interest in neutral site games to begin the season.
"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," says Chick-Fil-A Bowl CEO Gary Stokan. "Dallas and Houston have copied us, Charlotte is copying us, and I think you'll see Orlando and New York and Kansas City copy that."
3. Chick-Fil-A Bowl
The Chick-Fil-A Bowl counts among its accomplishments 16 straight sellouts, including 19 of 21 since moving the game to the Georgia Dome in 1992. The sellout streak ranks second only to the Rose Bowl, and the Chick-Fil-A Bowl's average attendance also ranks second among all non-BCS bowl games at 71,855 per game. In fact, the 2006 game, when Georgia surprised Virginia Tech, set the then-all-time attendance record for a sporting event at the Georgia Dome at 75,406. At the time, that was a larger crowd than any SEC Championship Game and even beat out two Super Bowls. With Atlanta ranking either first or second in alumni concentration for every school in the SEC and ACC, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl generally has no problem selling out even before the opponents are announced.
4. College Football Playoff
No doubt due to its past success, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl will become one of the six "host bowls" in the new College Football Playoff next season, meaning Atlanta will play host to a semifinal game once every three years. In the other years, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl will host top-ranked teams as assigned by a selection committee. With a new stadium set to replace the Georgia Dome in 2017, there's every reason to believe Atlanta will bid on, and receive, the chance to host the national title game, perhaps as early as 2018.
5. College Football Hall of Fame
There is no better place in the country for the College Football Hall of Fame than Atlanta, says John Stephenson, president and CEO.
"We're here at the crossroads of the SEC and the ACC, but more importantly, and particularly with respect to the Hall of Fame, we have a lot of people who live here from other areas of the country," said Stephenson, also making reference to the large number of schools who have alumni clubs in the Atlanta area.
Plus, the College Football Hall of Fame is accessible even to fans outside of Atlanta.
"We're a two-hour flight for something like 80 percent of the country, so it's easy for people to get here," said Stephenson.
6. TV viewership
For the 2012 regular season, Atlanta ranked 7th nationally in television viewership across ESPN platforms, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ABC. The previous year, Atlanta ranked fifth. Atlanta is by far the largest city in the top 10, behind cities like Birmingham, Greenville and Knoxville.
If you're not recruiting Georgia -- and more precisely metro Atlanta -- as a college football coach, you're probably doing something wrong. Twenty-one recruits in the ESPN 300 for the 2014 recruiting class are from metro Atlanta, with another eight from elsewhere in Georgia.
8. HBCU Bowl and HBCU Classics
For the fourth straight year, the HBCU Bowl All-Star Football game will be held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The top 100 draft-eligible seniors from all HBCU football conferences are invited to participate. In addition, two HBCU Classics will be played in Atlanta this season: the Inner City Classic will pit Albany State against Tuskegee University at Lakewood Stadium on Sept. 14, and the Bank of America Classic will feature North Carolina A&T against South Carolina State on Oct. 5 at the Georgia Dome.
9. Plenty of regular-season college football
Georgia State began playing in the Georgia Dome in 2010 and is moving up from the Football Championship Series to the Football Bowl Series this season. In 2015, nearby Kennesaw State University will begin play at the FCS level. Of course, longtime FBS program Georgia Tech is situated right in Atlanta, and University of Georgia plays just 70 miles away. In addition, HBCUs Clark Atlanta and Morehouse also play Division II-level football in Atlanta.