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College football may get a Final Four – and millions in new revenue

The proposed playoff structure marks a big philosophical shift within the world of college football and opens the door to a Cinderella team winning a national championship.

By Schuyler VelascoCorrespondent / June 21, 2012

Alabama (r) prepares to snap the ball against LSU during the first half of the BCS National Championship college football game in New Orleans on Jan. 9, 2012. BSC commissioners on Wednesday publicly endorsed a model for a four-team playoff to determine a national champion.

Bill Haber/AP/File

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College football fans, you’re about to get your very own Final Four.

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The sport went one step further in transitioning to a partial playoff structure Wednesday, giving legions of fans and analysts what they’ve been screaming for as long as there has been a BCS (14 years). All 11 BCS commissioners, along with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, publicly endorsed a model for a four-team, seeded playoff to determine a national champion.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of pluses to this,” ACC commissioner John Swofford told reporters after Wednesday's announcement in Chicago. “You’ve got the financial aspects of it, the transparency aspect of it. I think it will be better understood, by the public. I think it will be, if it comes to fruition, a definite step forward for college football.”

The next stop for the playoff proposal is Washington, D.C., where the commissioners will present it for approval by the BCS presidential oversight committee next Tuesday. Before any further specifics are announced, the commissioners have said they will discuss the playoff model with university presidents and athletic directors from their respective conferences.

Detail are few, but here’s what we know so far:

  • Four teams will vie for the title, up from the two selected to play in the title game under the current BCS system.
  • The teams will be decided on and ranked by a committee similar to the one that determines rankings for the NCAA basketball tournament, likely made up of former coaches, athletic directors, and other college football insiders.
  • The committee will weigh factors including record, conference championships, and strength of schedule to choose and seed the teams.
  • The two semifinal games will rotate among the already-existing BCS bowl games – the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, and Orange Bowls. The national championship game will be auctioned off to the highest-bidding city.
  • College football will become even more of a cash cow. According to ESPN, unnamed sources have hinted that the playoff could be worth between $400 million and $500 million for the NCAA

The commissioners’ group has been flirting with the four-team playoff for a while now. “There are still some issues to be resolved, but this shouldn’t be a surprise,” SEC commissioner Mike Silve, who has pushed hard for the playoff, said during the announcement.

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