The 2014 season will mark the beginning of a new era in college football. After many years of robust debate, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) voted to implement a new four-team playoff that is designed to once-and-for-all settle the issue of who will be awarded the national championship on an annual basis. In prior years, the “mythical” champion has been decided based on subjective information provided by popular college football polls.
The new playoff format goes into effect beginning with the 2014-2015 bowl season. In past seasons, many controversial situations have brought to light the inherent weaknesses in a system where a true champion is decided somewhere other than on the field. College football was the only major NCAA sport where the seasonal champion was decided without a meaningful playoff system.
The four teams chosen as participants in the two semi-final games will be decided by a selection committee, much like the one used to choose and seed teams in other NCAA sports such as baseball and basketball. The selection committee will be comprised of individuals who are/have been intimately involved with college football. The current committee includes athletic directors from major conferences, NCAA officers, former coaches and players, reporters and distinguished independent personnel. The four teams will be seeded 1 thru 4 by the committee, with #1 vs #4 and #2 vs #3. The highest seeded teams will be sent to the venue that is located nearest to the school’s campus.
In an effort to maintain the historical prestige associated with the annual bowl games, a group of six major bowl games have been selected to serve as hosts for the semi-final playoff games on a three-year rotating basis. The six bowls have been matched as follows over the next three years; Rose/Sugar (2014-15), Orange/Cotton (2015-16) and Fiesta/Chick-fil-A Peach (2016-17). For the venues not hosting a semi-final game, they will be awarded match-ups from the remaining highest ranked at-large teams. These games will be determined by conference results for the Rose, Sugar and Orange bowls, and by the selection committee for the Cotton, Fiesta and Peach bowls.
The Championship Game
The venue for the College Football Championship Game will be handled through a bid process, much like the one used to choose the Super Bowl venue. AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX has been chosen to host the first game scheduled for January 12, 2015. U. of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ has already been awarded the game in 2015-16. Each year, the Championship Game will be scheduled for the Monday following at least one week after the second semi-final game.
Here are some relevant facts about the new playoff format.
- The playoff format has been contracted through the 2025 season.
- The new championship trophy has been sponsored by Dr. Pepper for approximately $35 million through 2020.
- The championship venue must have an occupancy greater than 65,000.
Even before the first playoff game has been played, there have been discussions about a format expansion to eight teams at some point in the future. While the new format may need some tweaking, many people with an interest in college football agree that the new format is a huge step in the right direction.