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College Football Ditches BCS For Playoff; Key Questions Remain


Goodbye BCS, hello college football playoff. After months of debate and years of fans clamoring for it, college football will finally have a playoff. University presidents, conference commissioners and athletic directors gathered in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to officially stamp an expiration date on the BCS and unveil the basic details on college football’s new championship format.

The bowl system has been a source of frustration for several years. Although the BCS was an improvement on previous formats, a playoff format has been the most desired setup by fans across the nation. And those complaints didn’t go unnoticed, as the BCS will cease to exist following the 2013 season.

Some of the details regarding college football’s playoff are undecided, but here’s what we know:

- The new four-team playoff format will begin with the 2014 season, with the first championship game slated for Jan. 12, 2015.

- A selection committee will choose which four teams are chosen for college football’s playoff. Emphasis will be placed on win-loss record, conference champions, strength of schedule and head-to-head results.

- Six bowls will be picked to rotate as semifinal locations. The semifinals are expected to be played on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. The Rose, Cotton and Orange Bowls appear to be locks to be involved in the semifinal rotation, while the Chick-fil-A, Fiesta, Sugar and Capital One Bowl will be in the mix for the other spots.

- The host city of the National Championship will be placed up for bid.

- The new four-team playoff is a 12-year agreement, which will end in 2025.

The most important takeaway from Tuesday’s announcement has to be college football’s championship matchup will no longer be decided by a formula, but rather settled on the field. Although the committee may look at a BCS-style of rankings, no longer will a computer poll play a major role in selecting which team plays for a national title.   

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Although the four-team playoff has been widely speculated for some time and officially announced on Tuesday, some key issues have yet to be resolved.

How will the money be divided?: This issue is expected to be one of the hot topics over the next few months. Expect the six BCS conferences to get the major portion of the money, but how much remains to be seen. What happens to the five non-BCS conferences and Independents like BYU or Army? Some criteria such as academic performance and success on the field have been mentioned as two elements to dividing up the money, but what else will factor into that?

Choosing the Selection Committee: One of the biggest opportunities for controversy has to be the selection committee. Is there really a way to avoid having people on the committee with ties to a school or conference? Adding former head coaches to the committee has been tossed around, but how much are old coaches keeping up with college football each week?

Access for teams outside of the BCS Conferences: The “BCS” designation will go away, but there is no question about the power conferences in college football: ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. Some have dismissed the Big East from that mix, but it is clearly ahead of the Mountain West and Conference USA in the next tier of conferences. The BCS system helped to get Boise State, Utah, Hawaii and TCU into big bowl games – will that access change for teams outside of the six power conferences? Or will this format help? With a selection committee involved in choosing the participants for the top six games, this may help access for some of the teams outside of power conferences.

Some final points to consider about the new playoff format:

Every system has its flaws: Although a playoff will help settle things on the field, anyone who expects this system to be perfect is wrong. No matter who is on the selection committee, it will be hard to avoid discussion about bias towards certain teams or conferences. What will happen the first time a second team (who is deserving) from the SEC gets left out? What happens when an undefeated Boise State is not selected for a four-team playoff? Could this create a bigger division between the six power conferences and the five non-BCS leagues? If you thought a playoff will solve all of the issues in college football, think again. Get ready for more controversy each year.

Will a four-team playoff get bigger?: The 12-year agreement will keep the four-team format in place until 2025. But what happens after that? Could we see eight teams in 2030? Extending the season is a concern for most presidents, while there’s also concern about how an eight-team playoff would impact the regular season.

The Regular Season Stays Intact: Although some of the pro-playoff crowd has dismissed any notion that changing the postseason will impact the regular season, you can’t make a change to something and expect things to stay the same. There’s no question college football has the best regular season of any sport. Why change that? It may take a few years to see the true impact of the playoff on scheduling, but a four-team tournament shouldn’t take away from the regular season. However, expanding to an 8 or 16-team format would create a negative impact on the regular season.

Success or failure?: Only time will tell if moving to a four-team playoff is the right move for college football. However, all signs suggest the new championship format should be a success, especially as teams get to settle it on the field starting in 2014.

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