The BCS commissioners are backing a playoff plan with the sites for the national semifinals rotating among the major bowl games and a selection committee picking the teams.
The plan will be presented to university presidents next week for approval.
Once the presidents sign off — and that seems likely — major college football's champion will be decided by a playoff for the first time starting in 2014.
"We are excited to be on the threshold of creating a new postseason structure for college football that builds on the great popularity of our sport," Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said Wednesday.
All 11 commissioners stood shoulder-to-shoulder behind Swarbrick, who read the BCS statement from a podium set up in a hotel conference room.
The commissioners have been working on reshaping college football's postseason since January. The meeting Wednesday was the sixth formal get-together of the year. They met for four hours and emerged with a commitment to stand behind a plan.
The commissioners refrained from providing specifics of the plan in their announcement.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott did say the two semifinals would be worked into the existing major bowls and the site of the national championship game will be bid out to any city that wants it the way the NFL does it with the Super Bowl.
People with firsthand knowledge of the decision tell The Associated Press the semifinals of the proposed plan would rotate among the major bowls and not be tied to traditional conference relationships.
They also said that under the plan a selection committee would choose the schools that play for the national title.
The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the commissioners did not want to reveal many details before talking to their bosses.
"I am delighted," said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, who has supported a four-team playoff for years and whose league has won the last six BCS titles. "I am pleased with the progress we have made. There are some differences, but we will work them out. We're trying to do what is in the best interest of the game
There was some debate about whether to have semifinal sites rotate between the major bowls or link the sites of the games to traditional conference affiliations. By linking sites to leagues Southeastern Conference teams could host games at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and Pac-12 and Big Ten teams could host games at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
But the logistical issues that come with not having the sites for the semifinals set in advance were too big a problem. Now it will be possible for Ohio State and Oregon to play a semifinal in Miami, the site of the Orange Bowl.
How the teams will be selected has also been hotly debated; the current Bowl Championship Series uses a combination of polls and computer rankings.
There are still major details to be worked out, such as who exactly makes up the selection committee, but college football will take a page from college basketball, which uses a committee of athletic directors and commissioners to pick the teams for its championship tournament.
Scott has pushed for conference champions to be given preference for the playoff, but said he was comfortable that a committee would emphasize that and strength of schedule. He stopped short of saying the committee was part of the proposed plan.
"My position has evolved on that," Scott said about the selection committee. "There's a positive impression about the role that the basketball committee has played for basketball, and I think there's been a consensus that the current (football) system is pretty flawed in a lot of way."
The 12-member BCS Presidential Oversight Committee meets Tuesday in Washington. The commissioners and Swarbrick all stressed that ultimately the decision lies with the presidents. And that they will have more than just one model to talk about at their meeting.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents have both expressed support for the so-called plus-one model, which gives the BCS a new look by selecting the championship game participants after the bowls are played instead of creating a pair of national semifinals.
"I'm comfortable both of those will still be discussed at the president's meeting," Delany said.
Discussed, yes. But unless something unexpected happens in Washington, a playoff will take another step to becoming a reality.