Breaking down the new College Football Playoff system
PASADENA, Calif. -- Most of the news from Wednesday's BCS meetings about dates and sites for the new College Football Playoff was a formality -- but that doesn't make it any less confusing. Here, now, a brief attempt to explain how the postseason will look beginning with the 2014 season.
The Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A Bowls were formally announced Wednesday as the other three bowls that will host playoff semifinal games four times over 12 years. They join the previously announced Rose, Sugar and Orange.
The Rose and Sugar will host the first-ever semifinals, followed by the Orange and Cotton in Year 2 and the Fiesta and Chick-fil-A in Year 3. The rotation then repeats itself every three years.
The six games will be split into consecutive triple-headers on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 (except when one of those dates fall on a Sunday, moving them to Dec. 30 or Jan. 2). The Rose and Sugar will always be played on New Year's Day -- the Rose in its traditional 4:30 p.m ET time slot, the Sugar at 8:30 p.m. -- which means that in eight of the 12 years, the semifinals will be played on New Year's Eve. So, for the first season, it's the Chick-fil-A, Orange and Fiesta on Dec. 31, 2014, followed by the Cotton, Rose and Sugar on Jan. 1.
"This will be must-watch TV for two days in a row," said executive director Bill Hancock. "...The whole cultural nature of New Year's Eve is going to change in this country. People are going to stay home from their parties to watch these games."
We pause now for a quick refresher on who's playing in these games (besides the four playoff teams). In years they're not hosting a semifinal, the Rose Bowl will still be Big Ten-Pac-12, while the Sugar will host SEC-Big 12, and the Orange gets the ACC vs. either the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame. The other three bowls are open and will get either a "displaced" champion whose contract bowl is hosting a semifinal that year; the highest-ranked Group of Five champion (American, Mountain West, C-USA, etc.); or an at-large team picked by the selection committee. Geography will partially dictate those matchups.
Also Wednesday, as was long expected, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex., was awarded the first College Football Championship Game (that's what it will be called), to be played Jan. 12, 2015. Tampa was the only other bidder. "The stadium was the determiner," Hancock said of Jerry Jones' palace. "It's still 'The Stadium' with a capital T." The next two championship sites will likely be announced in September.
Unlike the current system, the championship game is NOT considered a bowl game. While Cotton Bowl organizers are part of a local non-profit collective staging the game, it's NOT the Cotton Bowl. "We couldn't be more excited about bringing college football's biggest game to Cowboys Stadium," said Jones. This despite the fact the city/franchise will collect no direct revenue from the event. All will be distributed to the conferences, said Hancock. "They'll get the economic impact," he said of the winning city.
Speaking of economics, the BCS's much groused about ticket guarantees -- in which participating schools/conferences eat the cost of their unsold allotment -- are not going away in the new system, just getting a little bit smaller. Those guarantees will drop from 17,500 to 12,500 per school.
Organizers anticipate the semifinal games will continue to be treated as traditional bowl weeks, with teams arriving a week or so in advance and participating in various team and media activities. The championship game, on the other hand, will be more like a conference title game. "Teams might arrive on Friday for a Monday game," said Hancock.
Having nailed down those details (and having previously negotiated a $7 billion television deal), the commissioners will now turn their attention primarily to the aforementioned selection committee. In conversations with Hancock and several commissioners, it appears they've agreed on almost no specifics so far, and might not even name the first members until this fall.
"I think we'll be able to turn more focus and attention to it now," said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. "They don't go to work until the fall of 2014."