State champion high school football teams from Georgia, Florida, Utah and Arizona will be eligible to play in a two-game postseason bowl on Dec. 23 at The Ford Center at the Star in Frisco, Texas.
The event, held at the Dallas Cowboys’ 12,000-seat indoor practice facility, will be known as the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series and will air on ESPNU at 6 p.m. (ET) and 9:30 p.m. (ET).
The series was organized by Paragon Marketing Group, which puts together the matchups for ESPN high school football and basketball games. It is similar to the 2014 State Championship Bowl Series, which involved three games among state champions and was held at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla. The event was not held last year.
“We’re thrilled to have the event back,” said Rashid Ghazi, a partner with Paragon. “We strongly believe in the concept. We needed a great TV partner, which we have in ESPN. We need willing state participants and we have four states that have agreed, and we want to have a great corporate partner, which we have in GEICO, which is a huge supporter of high school sports. We are thrilled that all parties have stepped up to help us create this experience for the kids.”
Each of the four states has more than one state champion, so the teams invited will be based on rankings, such as USA TODAY’s Super 25 rankings, the teams’ classifications and other factors. Though the event will be played in Texas, no teams from the Lone Star State will compete. The Texas state championships are on Dec. 17, just six days before the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series.
“We have not gotten permission from the UIL (the Texas University Interscholastic League that governs state high school activities) to have Texas teams,” Ghazi said. “Hopefully as the event progresses (in future years), we can find a way to get Texas teams in if they’re interested.”
The Ford Center at the Star opened this fall and is hosting high school games this season in partnership with the Frisco Independent School District.
If the highest-ranked teams from the eligible states in the Super 25 won their state championships, likely invitees would be: No. 8 St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale), No. 9 Roswell (Ga.), or No. 12 Mill Creek (Hoschton, Ga.), No. 11 Mountain Pointe (Phoenix) and No. 16 Bingham (South Jordan, Utah).
No. 1-ranked Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) could also be invited, if the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association allowed its state champion to participate.
“We are in conversation with a couple of other states about possibly having their teams compete,” Ghazi said. “I can’t tell you which states. That may be for this year or it maybe for next year, because we see the event growing, now that we’re back on track.”