KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. – The first semifinal games in the new college football playoff system will be played in the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015.
The BCS conference commissioners announced the dates and rotation for all 12 years of the upcoming postseason format after a meeting Monday in Key Biscayne, the day after the BCS championship game in Miami.
"It was not a one-year decision, it had to be a 12-year decision," BCS executive director Bill Hancock said. "Calendar issues, days of rest. Sugar and Rose were paired together because of the days of rest since they are playing the same day."
Whether they are hosting a semifinal or just a marquee bowl game, the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl will always be played Jan. 1, or Jan. 2 in years in which New Year's Day falls on a Sunday. In the eight years in which the Rose and Sugar do not host the semifinals, the four playoff teams will kick off on New Year's Eve or Saturday, Dec. 30.
Either way there will be a triple-header of major college football games, two semifinals and four other marquee bowl games, on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day starting from the 2014 season to the 2025 season.
"Those days will belong to college football," Hancock said.
The Rose Bowl also will be the site of the last BCS championship game Jan. 1, 2014.
The site of the first championship game in the new system is still to be picked, though Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, seems to be the front-runner. The title games always will be played on Mondays, at least seven days after the semifinals. The first one will be played Jan. 12, 2015.
The earliest the championship game will be played is Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. The latest the championship game will be played is Jan. 13, and that will happen twice, in 2020 and 2025.
In the second year of the playoff, the Orange Bowl will host a semifinal Dec. 31, 2015, along with one of three other sites still to be determined.
The preference is to have three more sites in three times zones, and they are expected to be Atlanta (Chick-fil-A Bowl), Arlington, Texas (Cotton Bowl) and Glendale, Ariz. (Fiesta).
Hancock said the commissioners are on track to have those sites locked in by the end of their late April meetings in Pasadena. The site for the first championship game is expected to be chosen sooner.
"This was really a basic meeting," Hancock said. "The balls that are still in the air are the (selection) committee, protocol and structure, what we're going to call it."
It was a year ago in New Orleans that the commissioners had what was the first meeting that led to the end of the BCS as we know it and the implementation of the four-team playoff.
"When we met this date last year in New Orleans we all knew that we were going to embark on a very significant review and potential restructuring," Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive said.
With the calendar set, the sites coming into focus, the next big issue left is the selection committee.
"I think April will be the action month in a lot of respects," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said.
The concept the commissioners are working with is about 18 people, mostly current college sports administrators, such as conference commissioners and athletic directors. Every conference and independent in major college football would be represented.
Delany said he hopes that by requiring the committee to emphasize strength of schedule it will force programs to rethink some of those cupcake games that inflate records. And that a couple of losses against good teams won't necessarily eliminate a team from playing in the four-team playoff
"It certainly has evolved in men's basketball," he said. "Everybody who is 20-10 doesn't get to the tournament. I think the new committee is sort of important to reinforce that. What they do in the first two, three, four years is going to really determine the messages that are being sent. The basketball committee has consistently sent the message that who you play and who you beat is more important than the record."