Fan-friendly guide to new College Football Playoff

Michael Kelly details routine that starts in October.

Virginia Tech entered the 2005 ACC championship game against Florida State 10-1 and ranked fifth nationally. An Orange Bowl bid and potential matchup with Penn State seemed inevitable.
But a loss to the unranked Seminoles dropped the Hokies to 10th in the final Bowl Championship Series standings. Moreover, the defeat relegated Tech to a Gator Bowl clash against Louisville.

Had the College Football Playoff that debuts this season been in place then, and had the playoff selection committee’s rankings mirrored the BCS standings, the Hokies would have landed in a better bowl against a better opponent.

I know what you’re thinking: With only four teams, how could the playoff affect the bowl destination for, say, a No. 10 team?

As Michael Kelly reminded media at the ACC’s preseason gathering Monday, the selection committee’s job extends far beyond determining the playoff semifinalists.

Kelly is the CFP’s chief operating officer and a former ACC associate commissioner, and during a 45-minute presentation he detailed not only the playoff’s ranking and pairing procedures but also ticket prices and allotments, community outreach, in-season routine and revenue distribution.

Long story short: The 12-person CFP staff, the 10 Bowl Subdivision conference commissioners, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, and the 13-member selection committee have meticulously planned a new postseason structure that while imperfect — an eight- or 16-team playoff would be better — is far superior to the BCS.

None of this is breaking news, but here is a brief, fan-friendly summary of how the CFP will work.

#Each season for the playoff’s 12-year contract, the committee will place teams in the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Peach bowls. Three games will be played New Year’s Eve, three New Year’s Day, and two will serve as national semifinals.


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“It brings a sports holiday onto a national holiday,” Kelly said.

The national championship game will follow 7-12 days later, on the first Monday that ESPN is not obligated to the NFL. The first three title contests have been awarded to suburban Dallas, suburban Phoenix and Tampa, Fla.

#In years they do not host a semifinal, the Rose Bowl will retain its Big Ten-Pacific 12 clash, the Sugar will match the Big 12 against the Southeastern Conference, and the Orange will pit the ACC against the highest-ranked available non-champion from among the SEC, Big Ten and Notre Dame.

#The highest-ranked champion from Conference USA, the Mid-American, Sun Belt, American Athletic and Mountain West is assured a spot in one of the six games, and all Bowl Subdivision teams are eligible for the semifinals.

#Tickets for the semifinals are capped at $175, with the other four bowls at $150. That’s cheaper than the BCS. Championship game seats will cost $450, which Kelly said is about half the price of the Super Bowl.

#Semifinal teams will receive 12,500 tickets each, championship teams 20,000 apiece. That latter number includes 1,000 half-priced student tickets and should prevent a sterile, corporate atmosphere.

#Revenue from CFP-licensed merchandise is earmarked for the playoff foundation’s Extra Yard For Teachers campaign, a worthy cause and sage public-relations strike in a time of mushrooming cynicism about major college sports.

#Courtesy of rightsholder ESPN, each of the five power conferences will receive about $50 million annually from the playoff, a windfall of approximately $3.6 million for each ACC school. This does not include money the conferences are guaranteed from their respective primary contract bowls — $27.5 million for the ACC from the Orange.

The other FBS conferences, including Old Dominion’s Conference USA, will share $75 million annually, or more than $1 million per school.

Every FBS program that reaches the NCAA minimum Academic Progress Rate will receive $300,000.

#Each Tuesday from Oct. 28 through Dec. 2, the selection committee will reveal its top 25, showing every playoff hopeful where it stands on the food chain. Suffice to say, the subsequent weekly debates among fans and media will be spirited.

#This will not be simply a compilation of 13 individuals’ top 25s. Rather, during in-person meetings at CFP World HQ in suburban Dallas, the panel, much like their NCAA basketball tournament peers, will conduct a series of votes that ranks teams 1-3, then 4-6 and so on.

Having participated in a mock basketball tournament bracketing at the NCAA’s Indianapolis office, I assure you this voting process is a critical and welcome distinction, affording more debate and allowing people to be swayed by others.

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