Atlanta stakes worthy claim as capital of college

  • Nick Saban is preparing No. 1 Alabama for another big-time game at the Georgia Dome when the Crimson Tide faces No. 4 Washington on New Years Eve.Alabama has been on the big stage in Atlanta quite a bit. In fact, a lot of college footballs big-time events are happening in Atlanta. Thats part of what Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl president and CEO Gary Stokan envisioned for the city 20 years ago. He wanted Atlanta to be the capital of college football.That tie between Atlanta and Saban which Stokan said started at the 2000 Peach Bowl with LSU and served as the groundwork for the Tigers 2003 national championship run continued with Alabama at the first Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in 2008. Saban recognized that at his news conferenceDec. 12.We were a relatively unknown program when we played Clemson, I gue s it was 2008, Saban said. They were ranked in the Top 10 if I recall correctly, and we had a pretty dominant performance in that game. I actually think that game probably did as much to launch this program forward as any game or anything that we ever did.MORE: Alabama beat Clemson 34-10. The rest is history, Stokan said.That could be said for both Alabama and the city of Atlanta at this point.That game served as a turning point for Stokans vision, which began while planning the 1996 Summer Olympics. Atlanta already had the SEC championship game, which it has hosted since 1994. Stokan also looked at the recruiting bases, SEC and ACC alumni within the city and the number of NFL players that Atlanta and the state of Georgia produce.It just became evident this was the heartbeat and the capital of college football, Stokan told SN. We took that vision and ran with it.Given whats happened since that first Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, its hard to argue. In 2009, a 30-year license brought Atlanta the College Football Hall of Fame, which opened in 2014. That was the first year of the College Football Playoff and coincided with the Chick-fil-A Bowl becoming one of New Years Day Six bowls. The Alabama-Washington matchup will be the first (and last) College Football Playoff semifinal played in the Georgia Dome.Thats because next years Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game will be a doubleheader in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Alabama-Florida State and Georgia Tech-Tenne see will play there on the opening weekend. Stokan said Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank deserves credit for making that happen, and that weekend will be a spectacle like none other.Its going to be an unbelievable atmosphere, Stokan said. Its going to be state of the art, will have all the amenities and will be the greatest stadium in the world. To have that kind of stadium is another carrot in our capital of college football. Well have the best indoor or outdoor stadium in the world.MORE: That site also hoststhe the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and College Football Playoff championship game next season.How did that happen? The Home Depot, Chick-fil-A and Napa are all based in Atlanta and surrounding areas, have a vested interest and have provided what Stokan callsthe under-penny for the support of college football.The corporate support in this city is very influential, especially with college football, so thats another arrow in our quiver as the capital of college football, Stokan said.Stokan cant say that enough. Thats been a goal, and he wants to keep it that way. Alabama-Washington is simply the next great event that will be tied to Atlanta. Stokan said thats a credit to the board members and volunteers who have helped execute that vision from the start.Its been a great ride to enjoy the journey to see all those people come together, he said.Its safe to say college football fans can say the same thing.

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