Key Facts About the College Playoff System

Key Facts About the College Playoff System


BCS lives on for two more years.

The Bowl Championship Series is on its way out, its replacement is a four-team college football playoff that will begin with the 2014 season. The new system was approved by the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee late last month, ushering in a new arrangement that will stay in place through 2025. A selection committee will choose the top four teams for participation with semifinal games held at current bowl sites. The championship game will follow about a week later and will be held on a Monday night.

National Championship

The new arrangement is one that has been proposed in one form or another for many years. It allows for additional schools to vie for a national championship, perhaps settling the argument that the current system makes it impossible for a TCU or a Boise State to qualify for a championship game.

There are some questions still remaining on how the new arrangement will be implemented. The following represents some key facts about the new plan:

Selection committee — Details about the selection committee are still being worked out, but we know that these individuals will choose the four teams that will participate in the college playoffs. It is expected that the football arrangement will mirror the one used for basketball, with perhaps a dozen people casting votes. Just as you tune into ESPN on Selection Sunday for March Madness, they’ll be an end of the year equivalent. I propose that “December Derangement” be the chosen descriptor.

Records and schedules — Nearly every year there is a team that has finished 12-0 and is not considered for the national championship game. If three teams finish 12-0, will each one automatically get in? No. Instead, we’ll see even greater emphasis put on strength of schedule with certain variables such as non-conference schedule factored in. How that will be weighed is not yet known, but it most likely will be a strong factor. Expect lower tier schools with a chance to go all the way, beef up their schedules accordingly. That is, if those schools will schedule them.

Current bowl games — The bowl game arrangement now in place survives with some changes that should interest fans. Six bowl games will rotate the two semifinal games including the new Champions Bowl representing a partnership between the SEC and Big 12, and the Rose Bowl, which has a working relationship with the Big Ten and Pac 12 conferences. The ACC is currently working on a bowl arrangement for itself and the Fiesta and Sugar Bowls are thought to be in this arrangement. Semifinal games will be played New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day and the championship game will be held on a Monday evening, at least six days after the first semifinal game is played. That game will not be a bowl game, permitting cities across the nation to bid on the game. The highest bidder will likely be awarded the game. Look for cities such as Atlanta, New York and Chicago getting in on the bidding process.

Automatic qualifiers — Six conferences had an “automatic qualifying” status for the BCS, something that goes away under the playoff system. For 2012 and 2013, the Big East Conference loses its automatic qualifying status while the Mountain West Conference has been denied its request for the same. Beginning in 2014, teams will be chosen based on previously mentioned factors and whether they were conference champions. My guess is that the current Big East membership will wait things out. Oh no, did a league just make a bid for Louisville?!

Cash distribution — A few things need to be ironed out financially including how much money the games will generate and the distribution of these funds. The larger conferences including the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC and Pac 12 would love to have a leg up here. However, teams qualifying from other conferences will need to be recompensed as well. There are currently 121 BCS-level programs; the new system must not play favorites or it will be subject to criticism, perhaps inviting Congressional action. The last thing anyone wants is the president of the United States to weigh in. Oops, too late for that.

Ultimate Access

Pundits and conference presidents seem to agree on one thing: the new playoff system provides access to teams previously shut out of the process, opening up post-season possibilities regardless of conference affiliation. Still, the stronger conferences are likely to continue dominating major college football, recruiting the best players and putting up the top teams. By 2017, we may be hearing calls for an eight-team playoff system to be introduced.


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