Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, April 26, 2012

Be prepared to say good-bye to the old Bowl Championship Series system. Or, perhaps you feel more like uttering ?good riddance.? Either way, get ready to say ?hello? to a college football playoff.

That?s correct-a playoff. No, you haven?t died and gone to heaven. It?s true. College football could be crowning its national champion with a playoff as soon as the 2014 season, although there is plenty of work to do before that. The 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame have emerged from three days of meetings in Hollywood, Fla., with a plan that will forever change the sport.

It won?t be a full-blown, eight- or 16-team playoff that some people favor, but it will be a "final four" that features two national semi-final games and a championship game. And the bowls figure to still be involved, but many details still need to be hammered out in coming months. All sides at those Florida meetings reminded us of that. The three main issues: 1. Where would national semifinal games be played? 2. How would the four teams be selected? 3. How would money be divided among leagues?

BCS executive director Bill Hancock estimates there are anywhere from two to seven configurations being considered by the leagues. The commissioners will reconvene in June to hash out a final system. University presidents will then have to give the OK, which could happen in July. If all goes well, the playoff would be put in place for the 2014 season-as the current BCS system has two years remaining.

As for the current BCS, will it survive past the next two seasons? "I hope not," Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive said Thursday in this story from the Associated Press.

A final four figures to pit the No. 1 seed vs. the No. 4, and the No. 2 seed vs. the No. 3 in national semifinal games. Will it solve all the debate on how college football crowns its champion?


Whichever team finishes fifth probably will complain about being unjustly kept out. Regardless, the involvement of more teams in the chase for the championship is a start that figures to be widely hailed by the public, including President Obama who has publicly stated his preference for a playoff.

Could this humble beginning of a playoff someday lead to the system growing to, say, eight teams? Who knows? Many felt we?d never see this day. So, never say never.

The bottom line is this: The lid has been taken off of a playoff. Now that it is here, there?s no turning back. And I have to think there?s a chance-A CHANCE-it could expand over time. The NFL playoffs grew by adding wild card teams. Major League Baseball expanded its postseason with more wild card teams.

But let?s not get ahead of ourselves. Let?s savor this historic moment in college football annals.

A playoff is coming.

I never thought I?d type those words.

Earlier this week, I wrote a Q&A that might help understand all of the moving pieces in this story. Give it a read. Also, here's a quick look at some tweets from national writers covering this story.!/ralphDrussoAP/status/195586807814045698!/slmandel/status/195603468499693568!/TeddyGreenstein/status/195588279817613313!/McMurphyCBS/status/195595275870543872

And in case you're curious, here are last season's final BCS standings. Plus, since it is late April, we offer up this link to as a great way to reacquaint yourself with the entire concept of the BCS. senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, and all of his work is at Send questions to his weekly mailbag, subscribe to his RSS feed, and check out his video Q&A.