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University presidents sign off on four-team college football playoff

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FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2012, file photo, the Coaches’ Trophy is displayed before the BCS National Championship game between the LSU and Alabama in New Orleans. College football will finally have a playoff. Come 2014, the BCS is dead. A committee of university presidents on Tuesday, June 26, 2012, approved the BCS commissioners’ plan for a four-team playoff to start in the 2014 season. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

WASHINGTON — Playoffs and tournaments long have determined champions of every college sport from baseball to bowling.

The exception was major college football.

That ended Tuesday. Come 2014, the BCS is dead.

A committee of university presidents approved a plan for a four-team playoff put forward by commissioners of the top football conferences.

For years, the decision-makers had balked at any type of playoff because they said it would diminish the importance of the regular season. If only two teams had a chance to win a championship in the postseason, even one loss could be too many. That made for some very high stakes regular-season games. As recently as 2008, Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive proposed the type of plan adopted Tuesday, and it was quickly shot down.

Four years later, minds changed. The 12 university presidents stood shoulder to shoulder on a stage at a news conference in a posh hotel in the nation’s capital and delivered the news.

“It’s a great day for college football,” BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said. “As soon as the commissioners realized they could do this and protect the regular season, the light went on for everybody.”

The move completes a six-month process for the commissioners, who have been working on a new way to determine a major college football champion after years of griping from fans. The latest configuration is certain to make even more money for the schools than the old system — and not satisfy everyone.

“There were differences of views,” said Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, who headed the BCS presidential oversight committee. “I think it would be a serious mistake to assume it was a rubber stamp.”

Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman was the most notable holdout. He had said he preferred the status quo or a tweak of the Bowl Championship Series. Perlman said the playoff still wouldn’t be his first choice, but he was not going to stand in the way of progress.

“This is the package that was put forth and we will strongly support it,” he said.

Instead of simply matching the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams in a title game after the regular season, the way the BCS has done since 1998, the new format will create a pair of national semifinals.

Many college football fans have been clamoring for a playoff for years, and the BCS has been a constant target for criticism. Lawmakers have railed against it. A political action committee was formed, dedicated to its destruction. The Justice Department looked into whether it broke antitrust laws. Even President Obama said he wanted a playoff.

Now it’s a reality.

No. 1 will play No. 4, and No. 2 will play No. 3 on Dec. 31 and/or Jan. 1. The sites of those games will rotate among the four current BCS bowls — Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar — and two more to be determined. One of the new sites will likely be wherever the newly formed bowl created by the SEC and Big 12 is played, Slive said.

The Cotton Bowl, played at the $1.1 billion Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, has long wanted to be part of the BCS and is expected to make a strong push to be in the semifinal rotation.

The winners of the semis will advance to the championship on the first Monday in January that is six or more days after the last semifinal. The first “Championship Monday,” as it was called in the BCS release, is set for Jan. 12, 2015.

The site of the title game will move around the way the Super Bowl does, with cities bidding for the right to host.

The teams will be selected by a committee, similar to the way the NCAA basketball tournament field is set. The men’s tournament has 68 teams, and 37 at-large bids.

The football committee will have a much tougher task, trying to whittle the field down to four. This season, 125 schools will play at the highest level of college football.

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