At one point during the run-up to today’s official announcement of a seeded four-team playoff, much thought was given to hosting semifinals at on-campus or neutral sites, which, while not putting the bowl system on the path toward extinction, would surely have taken away a significant chunk of its relevance.
With the confirmation that six bowls — the Rose, Orange and SEC/Big 12 “Champions” along with three others to be determined — will be in a rotation to host the two annual semifinal games, the current bowl system can breathe a sigh of relief. And, in a statement, that’s exactly the sentiment expressed by Football Bowl Association executive director Wright Waters.
“The Football Bowl Association wishes to congratulate the BCS Commissioners and Oversight Committee on their careful deliberations concerning the future of the college football postseason.
The 35 bowls located in 28 communities and staffed by thousands of community volunteers look forward to working with the commissioners to insure the continued growth of the sport we all admire. The bowls provide a unique postseason experience for student-athletes, fans, coaches and the American public. Today is the beginning of an exciting time in the future of college football and we are committed to continuing the rich tradition of the bowls.”
The biggest threat to those 35 bowls in 28 communities was never going to come from a playoff system anyway, regardless of the hollow threats of reverting to the old system made by those powerbrokers previously part of the anti-playoff crowd. Instead, the threat that should worry the bowl association the most is raising the bar for qualifying for any type of postseason play from six wins to seven.
Raising that bar would mean fewer teams actually reaching bowl eligibility, meaning that some of those nearly three dozen bowls, on the verge of being unable to fill the current 70-team quota with a six-win threshold as it is, could/would find themselves facing extinction simply based on the lack of eligible teams to fill all of the available for the spots. Last season, for example, just 57 teams won at least seven games, which would’ve left six or seven of those 35 bowls on the outside of the postseason looking in.
Incidentally, and relating to the six-bowl rotation for the semifinals, it appears likely that, barring something completely unexpected, two of the other three slots will be filled by the Sugar and Cotton Bowls. That third slot would then involve the Fiesta Bowl among others.
Official announcements on which bowls will be part of the six-venue playoff process are expected to begin trickling out in short order, especially as it pertains to the Rose, Orange and Champions bowls.