The Rose and Sugar Bowls are likely to host the first major-college football national semifinals in back-to-back games on Jan. 1, 2015, CBSSports.com has learned.
While it was stressed the situation is not finalized, one source said that was a "likely scenario." There are other indicators. CBSSports.com also learned the two bowls will be paired together four times as national semifinals on the same Jan. 1 date for the length of the 12-year playoff deal.
In the eight years when they are not semifinals, the Rose and Sugar are expected to stay on Jan. 1 with their conference partners -- Pac-12/Big Ten for the Rose, SEC/Big 12 for the Sugar.
Sugar Bowl officials are set to sign a contract to anchor their bowl on New Year's Day in the playoff era.
"It's done," one source said.
The commissioners wanted to honor the New Year's Day tradition by centering playoff games around Jan. 1. The six playoff games are expected to be played on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 each season. In years in which Jan. 1 falls on Sunday, those games will be played on Jan. 2. The Rose Bowl is expected to keep its traditional 5 p.m. ET starting time slot throughout the 12-year length of the playoff deal. The Sugar would then follow at approximately 8 p.m. ET.
The championship game would follow on the first Monday a week following the semifinals.
The development suggests, for the first time, the order of a three-year playoff bowl rotation. The six-bowl playoff format beginning after the 2014 season will feature so-called "contract" bowls Orange, Sugar and Rose tied to conferences. The other three bowls will go to open or "access" bowls without conference affiliations. The Fiesta Bowl as well as venues in Dallas and Atlanta are considered favorites to get those three spots.
Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, is largely assumed to be the site of the first championship of the playoff era in January 2015.
If the Rose and Sugar are played together, then the only other possible semifinal combinations in a three-year rotation are as follows:
Rose-Sugar in 2015 followed by (in some order the next two years) Orange Bowl-access bowl and access bowl-access bowl in 2016 and 2017.
Bill Hancock, executive director of both the current Bowl Championship Series and the future playoff format, said the commissioners would like to keep some sort of East-West balance for the semifinals. Extrapolating further then …
2016 or 2017: Orange-Fiesta
2016 or 2017: Dallas-Atlanta
In this age of superconferences, the pairing of the Sugar and Rose puts the top four conferences up front together. Should the game eventually evolve to four superconferences, the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC would still dominate New Year's Day.
The Rose Bowl is now scheduled to be the home of the final BCS title game on Jan. 6, 2014 and the first national playoff on Jan. 1, 2015.