If last season had taken place two years from now, the Gators would have been in competition for the 2015 National Title and played in one of the first ever NCAA division-I collegiate football semi-final matchups. Unfortunately, last year was 2012, and the lack luster performance in the Sugar Bowl couldn’t have inspired much hope. Regardless, I digress.
Beginning with the 2014-2015 college football season, the BCS era will come to a halt and we will direct our anger towards a newly designed bowl playoff system. While the new system is certainly an improvement, there will inevitably still be controversy and disgruntled fans of teams that are left out.
Before I go much further, let’s first take a look at some quick notes on the new system:
•The National Champion will be determined as a result of a four-team playoff.
•The two semifinal games will have a three-year rotation between six bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Fiesta and Chic-fil-A).
•When not hosting a semifinal matchup, the other four bowl games will follow guidelines to team selections similar to those in place with the BCS. The exception is the Sugar Bowl, which will become an SEC vs. Big 12 matchup.
•All six games will be played over the span of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, unless either day falls on an NFL Sunday.
•A selection committee, yet to be decided, will rank the top four teams to compete in the playoff every year. It has been rumored that there will be a poll similar to the BCS rankings, which the committee will release on a semi-regular basis during the season.
•Unlike the current system, the National Title game will not be considered a bowl game. The game will be a separate event that will receive location bids similar to the Super Bowl.
•Additionally, unlike the current system, there is no limitation as to how many teams any single conference can have competing in the playoffs.
The first two semifinal games will be the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl to be played on January 1st, 2015. The National Title will be held a week later as the two winners will meet in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas to determine the first playoff champion.
The commissioners have talked extensively about how excited they are about the new format and believe it will change the way people spend their time bringing in the New Year. I know I for one, will be glued to my seat when watching those first two semifinal matchups on New Years day in 2015. The new format will inevitably draw huge crowds and sky rocketing television numbers. As is the case with most everything the NCAA does, it comes down to money.
The new playoff system was enough to appease the masses while still maintaining the money machine of bowl games played across the country. Additionally, ESPN paid a staggering $7 billion dollars in securing the new playoff television rights averaging out to roughly $470 million dollars over the lifetime of the contract.
Although the current system goes a long way in appeasing fans, it will still cause a lot of controversy. We should have a better idea come next football season on who will be part of the selection committee. A long list of former athletic directors and conference commissioners will be sorted through to hopefully give the fans an even handed group. Regardless of who is chosen, people will claim inevitable bias and favoritism among the group.
I do believe this will continue to pay dividends for the SEC in their quest for football dominance. In recent history, people have questioned whether the strength of the SEC was so great that it would inevitably cannibalize itself in hopes of securing a championship. This new format will almost guarantee at least one spot for the SEC champion and never leave the conference without at least one team. If a non-SEC team doesn’t hold the crystal ball come January 2014, it might be a while until that changes.
On that note, non-automatic qualifying at-Large teams will have an extremely difficult time being selected to make the four team playoff, but should have an easier road in hopes of making one of the non-semifinal matchups among the six major bowls.
Fans that clamor for a larger playoff need to take into account the high costs of travel and accommodations that come along with a multi-week, multi-round format. This new system may not be the ultimate answer, but it’s still a step in the right direction.