Q&A: Breaking down the big questions surrounding the new playoff format

by | College Football Insider

CHICAGO -- So now that college football's power brokers have agreed on a four-team playoff (pending approval from the Presidential Oversight Committee), what's next?

Well, since you asked ...

Q: What exactly happened Wednesday in Chicago?

A: History, that's what. For four hours, the BCS commissioners met in the Sullivan room on the eighth floor of the Intercontinental Hotel overlooking Chicago's famed Magnificent Mile. They emerged from the room, hopped on elevators and got off on the third floor where they entered the Camelot room -- seriously, that's what it's called -- and promptly announced they had "developed a consensus behind a four-team seeded playoff" that will begin after the 2014 regular season.

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Q: What is the Presidential Oversight Committee's role in this?

A: On Tuesday in Washington D.C., the oversight committee -- one president from each of the 11 FBS conferences and Notre Dame -- will discuss the four-team playoff model and also the two-team, plus-one model. The committee will not take a vote, but they must reach a consensus approval on a playoff model. With the commissioners' full support behind a four-team playoff, it's unlikely the committee will not approve it.

Q: How will the four teams be chosen?

A: Sources told CBSSports.com that the commissioners will recommend to the oversight committee to use a selection committee. Exactly how many and who will be on the committee or how that committee will be chosen is still to be determined, but expect a group of individuals that represent each conference/region of the country. The selection committee will put more emphasis on conference champions and strength of schedule, similar to how the NCAA men's basketball committee selects the at-large teams for the NCAA tournament.

Q: Will the selection committee limit the number of teams per conference that can play in the semifinals?

A: Nope. It's possible we could have two, three or -- the unthinkable -- four teams from one conference competing in the four-team playoff. The selection committee will be charged with choosing the "best four" teams no matter what conference they're in.

Q: Does the emphasis given to conference champions force Notre Dame to join a conference?

A: Absolutely not. The Irish will remain an independent in football until the end of time (which, according to the Mayans, will be Dec. 21). The other independents --- BYU, Army and Navy -- also will be eligible for the playoff, but likely would have to finish 12-0 or 11-1 to have a shot at making the four-team field.

Q: How much will the new playoff format be worth and how much will each conference receive?

A: The current BCS model is worth about $180 million annually and estimates for the new playoff model will be at least double that -- $360 million annually. The commissioners still have to determine how that money is divided up, but this much we know: the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC will get the biggest shares. CBSSports.com reported Monday that the revenue split will be based on the league's past performances, specifically Top 25 finishes in the final BCS rankings since 1998, the first year of the BCS. The past participation model is one way to justify the Big Five conferences receiving the majority of the money. Other elements under consideration include market share value. Under the current system, each of the power conferences received a minimum of $22.3 million. In the new model, I wouldn't be surprised if the five power leagues receive at least $50 million annually. The other leagues -- Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt -- will get much smaller shares than the Big Five, but more than the $2.64 million they each receive now. The Big East, which received $22.3 million in the current system, is no longer considered an elite conference and will not get the same as the Big Five leagues in the future format. However, they could get an amount much less than the Big Five, but more than the remaining non-power conferences. This is still to be determined. Also, each conference will receive additional revenue for each team it qualifies in the national semifinals.

Q: Will the "little guys" from the non-power leagues have a shot at playing in the national semifinals?

A: Sure, but any team from the Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, etc., will have to go 12-0 or, at worst, 11-1 and hope the power leagues don't have four teams with similar records. Again, strength of schedule will be a big emphasis point with the committee, so it will boil down to how a Big East/MWC/C-USA champion, facing a much easier conference schedule than the big boys, compares with the elite teams from the power conferences.

Q: When and where will the games be played?

A: The semifinals will be held at the existing BCS bowl sites (Fiesta, Sugar, Rose and Orange) -- unless another non-BCS bowl outbids them -- and will be played around Jan. 1. The championship game will be played less than two weeks later on the Monday following the weekend of the NFL's wild-card games (around Jan. 9-12). The championship game will be bid on in a similar fashion as the Super Bowl. Several cities already have indicated they would pursue the game, including Tampa, Fla., Jacksonville, Fla., Dallas, Indianapolis, Detroit and St. Louis.

Basically expect any city that has hosted a Super Bowl to bid on it. Also, current BCS bowl sites could bid for the national title game, but likely wouldn't be allowed to host the semifinals and final in the same season.

Q: What happens to the BCS bowls starting after the 2014 regular season?

A: In years the Fiesta, Sugar, Orange or Rose do not host a national semifinal game, they would still hold their traditional bowl game. In non-semifinal years, the Rose Bowl would have a Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchup. The Champions Bowl, which also will be held on Jan. 1 at a site to be determined, will have an SEC vs. Big 12 matchup. The Orange Bowl has to decide if it wants to continue its relationship with the ACC champion. (Personally, I think the Orange Bowl should also look at signing a deal with Notre Dame). The Fiesta Bowl will not have an anchor conference, but will have the flexibility to select two teams from any conference.

Q: How long will the new college playoff format be?

A: The biggest fear of the commissioners is that the four-team playoff will grow to eight or 16 teams. Because of that, they will seek as long a contract as they can get -- a minimum of 8-10 years -- to guarantee the playoff field won't get bigger until 2020 or beyond.

Q: What happens to the BCS?

A: It's kaput, done, finished. At least after the 2013 season. Dennis Dodd, my colleague at CBSSports.com, reported that the BCS name will not continue with the new playoff system.

Who knows what they will call the new playoff, but it can't be "Final Four." That's an NCAA trademark and college football's playoff is not associated with the NCAA. How about the "Champions Bowl Series," or CBS?

Q: Who will play in the first national semifinals in January 2015 and who will win college football's first four-team playoff?

A: Seriously? C'mon. I've been sworn to secrecy. You'll just have to wait a couple of years like everyone else to find out.


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