College Football Playoff eyes New Year's takeover

Cowboys Stadium will host the first playoff Championship game and the Cotton Bowl in 2015. (USATSI)
Cowboys Stadium will host the first Playoff Championship Game and the Cotton Bowl in 2015. (USATSI)

PASADENA, Calif. -- If the College Football Playoff wants staying power that the BCS never had, a slate of back-to-back-to-back games on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day is a wildly good place to start.

The commissioners knew this, Conference USA’s Britton Banowsky said. More than a year ago, they pulled out the calendar and realized the chance to take New Year’s back.

“People will plan their schedules around it,” Banowsky said.

Not since Michigan won the AP title on the first day of 1997 with a Rose Bowl win over Washington State has college football produced title-picture games when the 9-to-5ers might actually have a day off.

Date Bowl (Matchup)
Dec. 31 Orange (ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/Notre Dame)
Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A (at-large vs. at-large)
Dec. 31 Fiesta (at-large vs. at-large)
Jan. 1 Cotton (at-large vs. at-large)
Jan. 1 Sugar (Semifinal)
Jan. 1 Rose (Semifinal)
Jan. 12 Championship Game in Arlington, Texas
Date Bowl (Matchup)
Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A (at-large vs. at-large)
Dec. 31 Cotton (Semifinal)
Dec. 31 Orange (Semifinal)
Jan. 1 Fiesta (at-large vs. at-large)
Jan. 1 Sugar (SEC vs. Big 12)
Jan. 1 Rose (Big Ten vs. Pac-12)
Jan. 11 Championship Game
Date Bowl (Matchup)
Dec. 31 Orange (ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/Notre Dame)
Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A (Semifinal)
Dec. 31 Fiesta (Semifinal)
Jan. 2 Cotton (at-large vs. at-large)
Jan. 2 Sugar (SEC vs. Big 12)
Jan. 2 Rose (Big Ten vs. Pac-12)
Jan. 9 Championship Game

The playoff is camping out with six games in two days, giving Ryan Seacrest new holiday friends for ratings competition.

In the first year of the playoff in 2014-15, the first two semifinal games -- the Rose and Sugar -- will be played on Jan. 1 at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. The Cotton Bowl, one of the six bowls in the playoff rotation every three years, will also be on New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, the Orange, Chick-fil-A and Fiesta will be on New Year’s Eve 2014.

In 2015-16, the semifinals (Cotton and Orange) will be on New Year’s Eve, along with the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The other three bowls will be on New Year’s Day.

In 2016-17, the Chick-fil-A and Fiesta host the semifinal games on New Year’s Eve.

Follow this formula in three-year intervals until 2026-27. In eight of those 12 years, a semifinal will be on New Year’s Eve.

The first “College Football Championship Game” is Monday, Jan. 12, in the Cotton Bowl. The first three title games will be on the second Monday of January.

“Everybody thought games on Jan. 2-3-4-5 would be good for college football, and I think they were for a while,” College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said. “But I think eventually people realized fans were back at work, school was back in session. Wednesday, Jan. 3, turned out not to be a good day for us.

“Now we have six games throughout the holidays.”

The College Football Playoff meetings got off to a rather nondescript start this week. The name is uninspiring, which is probably by design. The new web site looks like something a start-up company or a Little League would concoct.

The four logos, to be voted on by fans, have garnered mixed reviews. The site’s contractor even caught a “cheater” with an IP address in Austin who cast 50,251 votes for logo No. 4, violating the voting policy.

But the New Year’s slate? That’s something even Twitter can get behind.

“As a fan, I think it’s the thing to do,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said.

As for a few details of the playoff…

* The sites for the 2016 and 2017 title games will be announced in September. Tampa and San Diego should be in that mix.

* The non-semifinal bowls -- formally known as BCS bowls -- have the working title of “New Year’s Bowls.”

* Semifinals will be treated like normal game preparation weeks for teams. For championship games, teams might get into town on a Friday for the Monday kickoff.

* The site hosting the title game gets no revenue cut, only economic impact from hosting the game. Semifinal games get 15 percent.

* The playoff selection committee is far from finalized. In fact, the College Football Playoff group will have nothing significant to report this week. “They will have a tough job,” Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley said. “You’re not picking 68 teams. You’re picking four.”

* The playoff wants to provide a relative home-field advantage to top-two seeds. For example, if No. 2 LSU plays No. 3 USC in a year when the Rose and Sugar are semifinal sites, they will play in the Sugar.

As for ESPN -- which pays more than $7 billion for the 12-year playoff, according to Sports Business Journal -- exec Burke Magnus says the network has traditionally produced good ratings on New Year’s Eve. The CFP expects other bowls to play on that day (Music City, Sun, Liberty and Chick-Fil-A last year).

Perhaps more important, Banowsky said, is “being able to plant a flag” in a two-day window over 12 years.

People know what to expect now.

“We’re just trying to get it right,” Banowsky said.

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