- Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Writer
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If Football Bowl Subdivision conference commissioners and the sport's other power brokers approve a four-team playoff to determine college football's national champion, the semifinals and the national championship game will be played at neutral sites and the BCS bowl games will be played closer to New Year's Day, a source familiar with the negotiations told ESPN.com on Tuesday.
Commissioners of the 11 FBS conferences, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and other network TV and college football officials are meeting in Hollywood, Fla., this week to discuss the future of the BCS.
The source said he believed the commissioners "are too far out on a limb to turn back now," but said there were still many details yet to be finalized. A final decision on the BCS isn't expected this week, but the commissioners and other officials are expected to begin hammering out many of the details of a four-team playoff.
The proposed changes wouldn't go into effect until the 2014 season. The current BCS system, in which the top two teams in the final BCS standings play in a national championship game at the site of one of the current BCS bowls (Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar), will remain in place over the next two seasons.
"I don't know how they could walk back at this point, but they might," the source said. "I think because they're dealing in a world of compromise, I think there's a chance they could only tweak the current system and only deal with No. 1 versus No. 2. But I think they're too far out on a limb to turn back now."
A proposal to play the semifinal games at the home stadiums of the higher-seeded teams is all but dead, according to the source. The semifinal games will either be hosted by the existing BCS bowl games or opened for bidding. The source said it seemed almost certain that the national championship game will be opened to bidding by the existing BCS bowl sites and other cities such as Atlanta, Dallas and Indianapolis.
The conference commissioners have reached a conclusion that some FBS schools' stadiums aren't large enough to host a national semifinal game and that many college towns don't have enough hotel rooms to accommodate bigger crowds.
"What happens if TCU finishes No. 2 in the country and hosts a semifinal game?" the source said. "TCU finished No. 3 two years ago. Are they really hosting No. 3 Ohio State in a 45,000-seat stadium? Where are people going to stay if Oregon hosts a semifinal game? In Portland? As much as it would be great for the sport to see a game played in Ann Arbor, Mich., Tuscaloosa, Ala., or Lincoln, Neb., some of the logistical issues are just too severe. I think that idea has come home to roost as far as these guys are concerned."
The source said a proposal that would require teams to win their respective conferences to participate in a playoff is also all but dead. Under that proposal, Alabama, which didn't win the SEC last season but defeated No. 1 LSU 21-0 in the Jan. 9 Allstate BCS National Championship Game, wouldn't have been eligible for the playoffs.
The BCS hopes to emerge from these Florida meetings with no more than two or three football postseason proposals to be brought to conference brass soon, BCS executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN's Joe Schad Tuesday.
"They know this game is in the fourth quarter. And it's time to get it done," said Hancock, who also added that the commissioners will come to a consensus that "is in the best interest of the game."
Conference commissioners are still debating about what to do with the Rose Bowl as well, according to the source. Rose Bowl officials repeatedly have said they prefer to keep their traditional matchup between Big Ten and Pac-12 teams; Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott also favor keeping the traditional tie-in intact. But if the Rose Bowl isn't willing to give up its affiliations with those conferences, it might fall out of a potential national semifinals rotation. However, the Rose Bowl would still be eligible to bid for a national championship game.
The source said the conference commissioners also are eager "to take back New Year's Day." Last season, 35 college bowl games were played between Dec. 17 and Jan. 9. Of the traditional New Year's Day bowl games, only the Rose and Fiesta bowls were played on Jan. 2 (New Year's Day fell on a Sunday this year, a day reserved for the NFL). The Sugar Bowl was played on Jan. 3 and the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4.
The source said the commissioners would prefer to play the national semifinal games on New Year's Day and have the winning teams play in a championship game about a week later.
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