The long-controversial BCS format that has crowned college football’s national champion since 1998 is being replaced by a four-team playoff beginning in 2014. That plan was approved today by a committee of university presidents. The start date is no coincidence: ABC/ESPN paid $155 million for rights to the current BCS games through the 2013-14 season, and the new format will be offered up for bidding to other networks beginning in the fall (though ESPN has right of first refusal on a new deal). That price tag has been estimated at between $400M-$500M per season, Bob Boland of New York University’s Tisch School of Sports Management told Bloomberg; the committee wants a 12-year package for the three games annually. The Sporting News says the TV rights price tag would skyrocket if the bidding involves all the major networks, as well as if rights to the two semifinals are to be bid on separate from the title game. No answers there yet.
Under the plan, the semifinals pitting the No. 1 vs. the No. 4 seed and the No. 2 vs. the No. 3 seed on December 31 and January 1, respectively. (Who will determine which teams will make the top 4 is the other intriguing question yet to be answered — the current BCS format relies on polls and computer programs to determine its finalists.) The winners will play in the title game the first Monday in January that is six days after the last semifinal contests. In 2014-2015, that puts the championship game on January 12, 2015. Sites of the semifinal games will rotate among the current major BCS bowls — Rose, Orange, Fiesta, Sugar and two more to be determined — with the title game rotating among winning bid cities, much like the Super Bowl or the NCAA basketball tournaments.