"I think it's tremendous progress," Washington State coach Mike Leach, a playoff proponent, said in a telephone interview. "Five years ago there wasn't even dialogue about a playoff. Instead of diving in the water, they dipped their toes in. I think it's' going to be ridiculously exciting and it's going to generate a bunch of money. I wish they dived in."
The BCS had given automatic qualifying status to six conferences, the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Pac-12 and Big East. That allowed those leagues better access to the big, high-payout games than the other five conferences, such as the Mountain West and Conference USA.
Automatically qualified status is gone and the commissioners believe the new system will create more interesting games beyond the ones that determine the national title.
"What the system now is, several semifinals, championship game and some access bowls. By creating a couple of access bowls, people will be able to play high-quality opponents in big venues with big brands," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said.
No one has put a hard number on it yet, but this new format figures to more than double the TV revenue of the current BCS and Rose Bowl contracts. Those pay out about $155 million annually.
The commissioners want to lock in this format for 12 years with a television partner. The current four-year BCS deal with ESPN runs through the 2013 season. The new format will be presented to potential TV partners in the fall, starting with ESPN.
"I think we have found what we think is the right place and it stabilizes the postseason for a length of time that I think is healthy for the game," said Slive, whose members have won the last six BCS championships.
There are still some details to work out — such as who will be on the committee and what new bowls will be involved in the semifinal rotation — but all the decision-makers are on board.
Lower divisions of college football already have a playoff, but the highest level has always used bowls and polls to determine its champion. Those days are coming to an end.
"We believe this new format will be good for student-athletes, for the alumni and for our institutions," Steger said. "It's a best of both worlds result. It captures the excitement of the playoff while protecting the regular season."
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