Las Vegas Sun

October 17, 2021

Currently: 80° — Complete forecast

College football awards event another coup for Las Vegas sports scene

Casino Exteriors

Steve Marcus

An exterior view of Aria on the Las Vegas Strip Dec. 26, 2017.

College football is certainly finding Las Vegas a friendly landing spot for notable events.

The most recent example: The National Football Foundation is bringing its College Football Hall of Fame awards dinner to Las Vegas in December.

Last month, Notre Dame announced it would play BYU here in 2022. And, of course, UNLV football and the Las Vegas Bowl have long become Southern Nevada staples. The foundation’s dinner, officials say, could be the gateway to more.

“Las Vegas is built to host these types of events,” said Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “This will bring the college football and college athletics spotlight to Las Vegas for, really, that entire week. The landscape of sports in Las Vegas is rapidly growing. We’re really the sports capital of the world now.”

The Dec. 7 dinner is moving from New York — its home for more than six decades — to the Aria because of venue availability issues, said Steve Hatchell, president and CEO of the foundation. The move to Las Vegas for the year was a no-brainer.

“It’s important to be in Las Vegas,” Hatchell said during a news conference at UNLV on Monday. “When Steve said, ‘We really want you here,’ we jumped all over that.”

The foundation will honor its past two hall of fame classes, as the 2020 event was canceled because of the pandemic. A total of 32 legends will be on hand for induction, including former Eastern Illinois and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, former Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, former Oklahoma national championship coach Bob Stoops, and former Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer (Southern Cal) and Eric Crouch (Nebraska).

More important for Hill and his team at the authority working to market the area is having a who’s who of college officials in town. Hatchell said more than 150 athletic directors, conference commissioners and network television officials are scheduled to attend. 

There’s hope from many that Las Vegas could eventually host a college football national championship game at Allegiant Stadium.

“There’s no better pathway to see what’s in Las Vegas than to come for this dinner,” Hatchell said. “Frankly, the door is already open.”