College Football Playoff brings money, excitement
Posted July 23, 2014
On Dec. 7, one day after the ACC crowns its champion, the face of college football will change forever.
At 12:45 p.m., the College Football Playoff Selection Committee will announce the sport’s first ever “Final Four.”
The 13-member committee, chaired by Jeff Long of Arkansas, will evaluate the top teams on the basis of strength of schedule, head-to-head competition, results against common opponents, championships won and other criteria.
The committee will choose the No. 1 seed and place that team in the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl – whichever is deemed most to that school’s advantage – and slot the No. 4 seed alongside No. 1 in that game.
Nos. 2 and 3 will be chosen and assigned to whichever bowl remains. That will complete the bracket for college football’s first ever national semifinals. Both games will be played Jan. 1, 2015. CFP Chief Operating Officer Michael Kelly notes, “we want to re-claim New Year’s Day.”
National Championship in Texas
The two semifinal winners will meet to determine college football’s first champion determined by playoff. That game will take place Jan. 12, 2015, in Arlington, Texas.
Tickets for the much-anticipated title tilt will go for $450 a pop. Fans will find ticket prices for the semifinal games in New Orleans and Pasadena a bit more affordable – $150 is the ceiling, but some tickets will be available for less than that. Still, the new playoff system will produce a significant new revenue stream for all schools.
The five power conferences, including the ACC, will get 75 percent of the playoff proceeds. After expenses, it is expected each league will get about $50 million per year. The other participating conferences, known as “the Group of Five,” will get about $18 million per league each year.
Notre Dame is expected to make $3 to 4 million under the new playoff system, and other FBS independents, will, according to Kelly, get at least $300,000. And that’s just the base.
Each conference that places a team in the national semifinals gets a $6 million bonus. Conferences placing a team in one of the three at-large New Year’s Day bowls will command a $4 million bonus.
And all of the TV deals for the major bowls have gone up. The new Orange Bowl contract, for example, is now worth about $55 million. So the ACC will get a share of that on top of any playoff bonus in the years it places a team in Miami.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford says the new system will triple the revenue each ACC school formerly received under the BCS, although he also notes that each school’s operating expenses continue to climb.
Coach and player reaction
Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer, who concurs the playoff will be outstanding financially, likes the excitement the new system brings.
“All the talk during the season,” he says, “will increase interest in college football. I think we should go to eight teams.”
Florida State defensive back P.J. Williams didn’t mind projecting Florida State’s 2013 success onto the new system.
“Cool,” he said. “It would be like playing two bowl games. The more time on the big stage, the better.”
FSU Coach Jimbo Fisher is a bit more cautious about playing a semifinal game and then a championship game.
“How do you manage playing time and travel for two big games? No one knows,” says Fisher. “We’re in uncharted waters.”
The CFP philanthropic component
Less publicized, but still important, the College Football Playoff will also engage in community outreach. All merchandising from the playoffs, and there will be a great deal, will fund the CFP Foundation, benefitting an organization called “Extra Yard for Teachers,” and other educational programs.
Other New Year’s Day bowls
Back to Dec. 7.
The CFP Selection Committee is not done when it announces the top four teams. The group will then go back into session and later that afternoon will announce pairings for the Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, and Peach bowls.
The ACC will place a team in the Orange Bowl, except when the Orange Bowl is hosting one of the semifinal games. In that case, the selection committee will find the ACC Champion (or other qualified ACC team) another game to play in.
The Rose and Sugar bowls are the first to host the semifinal playoff games, but the Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, and Peach bowls will also rotate into those games once every three years. Three games will be played Dec. 31, including New Year’s Eve, and three (counting the two playoff games) will be played New Year’s Day.
CFP rankings begin in late October
Rankings for the new College Football Playoff begin in late October. The 13-member committee, which includes football notables Archie Manning, Tom Osborne and Tyrone Willingham, as well as five athletics directors (Oliver Luck, Pat Haden, Barry Alvarez, and Dan Radakovich, in addition to Long) will meet in Dallas every Monday beginning Oct. 27.
The next day, and every Tuesday thereafter until Selection Sunday, the committee will rank the top 25 teams in the country.
By Dec. 7, the committee must be able to identify 12 teams for the two playoff semifinals and the New Year's Day at large bowls. In general, the top ranked teams get the bids, with a few stipulations.
Each champion from the "Power Five" conferences is guaranteed a slot. At least one representative of the Group of Five Conferences (Boise State or Northern Illinois, for example) is guaranteed a slot.
Notre Dame, if highly ranked, also qualifies. But the committee must take the most qualified teams. No longer can one lower-ranked school be selected over a higher ranked school just because its fans travel better.
Playoff fever in the ACC
Coming off one of the most successful football seasons in ACC history (the conference became just the second ever to win the championship and capture a second BCS bowl win), the league looks to the new system in college football with a great deal of anticipation.
Its commissioner expects to have a team or teams in the mix of playoff consideration.
“The first year is important,” John Swofford notes. “We would like to get out of the blocks quickly in the new playoff system.”
Getting a Florida State or a Clemson, or maybe a Triangle team (you have to dream big, right fans?) would add a great deal of excitement to months normally focused just on basketball. And the money is mighty good, whether the ACC makes football’s first Final Four or not.