College football is going to have a playoff. Finally!
Beginning with the 2014 football season four college football teams will play in a semifinal game and the winners will play for the NCAA championship. The four teams will be chosen by a selection committee, the semifinals will be held at current bowl sites and the national championship game will be awarded to the highest bidder.
The group of 11 college presidents also endorsed a rotation of the semifinal games among six bowl sites and a rotation of the championship game among neutral sites. The semifinals either will be played on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, and the national title game will be played on "Championship Monday," the first Monday in January which is six or more days after the final semifinal game is played.
There will be three contract bowls – the Champions Bowl, which is a partnership between the Big 12 and SEC, the Rose Bowl, which has a longstanding tradition between the Big Ten and Pac 12, and a bowl to be determined for the ACC, which just signed up to continue its partnership with the Orange Bowl.
The championship game will be managed by the conferences and will not be branded as a bowl game. The presidents also announced the creation of a selection committee that will rank the teams to play in the playoff, "giving all the teams an equal opportunity to participate." The committee will consider win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results and whether a team is a conference champion.
The two main topics that still need further discussion are how teams will be selected and how revenue will be distributed. The commissioners have agreed in principle as to how the revenue will be divided, according to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, but that has not been made public yet. The commissioners also still need to decide a name for the playoff.
Regular readers of this column know that yours truly is an advocate for a college football playoff. You would also know that this four team model falls short of my preferred eight team model, but make no mistake, this is a giant step forward. Many observers are opining that it’s merely a matter of time before the playoff expands to eight teams.
It will also be interesting to see how a human selection committee compares to computers at rating teams. I would guess the selection committee would have plenty of computer-generated data to use in their evaluations, but we will now have knowledgeable football people analyzing the information and not computer geeks.
I also suspect that the selection committee’s job will be very difficult. Maybe the four most deserving teams will stand out in most seasons, but the more likely scenario is that there will be five or six teams, possibly more, deserving of the fourth and final seed. I can foresee much debate in the future regarding those selections.
Of course selecting eight teams would not eliminate those tough decisions for the last spots in the eight-team format, but the possibility of leaving out a team capable of winning the championship is reduced significantly.