It'll be two more seasons before it arrives, but college football has the playoff its fans have been clamoring for, with a committee of university presidents Tuesday approving a 12-year deal for a four-team playoff starting with the 2014 season.
Two national semifinals will rotate among six bowl games each year, with the winners playing for a national title at a site made open for bidding, and those three coveted games could draw an estimated $500 million annually in a new TV deal that currently pays $180 million.
Many details remain. A selection committee will choose the four teams, but it's unknown who will be on that committee. And it's not known exactly which six bowls will host the semifinals, though it's expected to be the current four BCS bowls (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta) with two additional hosts.
That presents two opportunities for Tampa to play a role in crowning a national champion. The Outback Bowl should be a viable candidate for the semifinal rotation, with speculation also focusing on established bowl hosts such as Dallas, Atlanta and Orlando, which just announced a major renovation of the Citrus Bowl. The chance to host a national title game — which would challenge the Final Four and Super Bowl as the biggest neutral-site events in the country — is something Tampa is excited about.
"It's still early, but I can tell you we couldn't be more eager to find out," said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. "We'll do everything we can to position our community to be successful in the process."
The question now is how the balance of power will shift in college football; gone is the "automatic qualifier" that went with the top six conferences in the BCS system. The Big 12 and SEC have already agreed to send their best teams not in the playoff to a new Champions Bowl, and the Big Ten and Pac-12 will continue a relationship with the Rose Bowl. The ACC is expected to soon announce an agreement with a third bowl in the six-game rotation. The Big East won't have any assurances of being part of the playoff, though an undefeated champion should have a strong case with a selection committee. Big East interim commissioner Joe Bailey declined to issue any statements Tuesday.
The playoff system will end the current BCS system, which selected two teams for a championship using a combination of computer ratings and polls, leading to nearly annual controversy as to whether the nation's best teams were truly playing for the title. This initial playoff plan will have four seeded teams, with No. 1 playing No. 4 and No. 2 meeting No. 3 on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, with the title game slated for a "Championship Monday," on the first Monday at least six days after the semifinals. The first such game will be Jan. 12, 2015.
'Zona ready to repeat
OMAHA, Neb. — Arizona doesn't plan on being a one-year wonder even though the catalysts for the Wildcats' first national championship since 1986 probably are heading off to professional baseball.
Coach Andy Lopez said a strong group of freshmen and sophomores on this year's 48-17 team is capable of offsetting the expected departures of junior stars like Alex Mejia, Robert Refsnyder and Kurt Heyer.
In addition, Lopez said, Arizona has an intangible working in its favor: confidence.
The Wildcats coach said the good vibes his Pepperdine team carried into the next season after winning the 1992 national title elevated the play of veterans and newcomers.
"We lost a ton of guys. People were thinking we weren't going to be very good," Lopez said a day after Arizona beat South Carolina 4-1 in Game 2 of the College World Series finals. "We won 43 games and made it to the (region) championship game in Tempe, playing for the right to come back to Omaha."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.