- Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Writer
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If the 11 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and independent schools decide to incorporate the existing Bowl Championship Series bowl games into a four-team playoff, the sites of the two national semifinal games might be determined by the conference affiliations of the two highest-ranked teams.
Under a plan proposed during BCS meetings this week in Hollywood, Fla., BCS officials discussed having the Fiesta, Orange, Sugar and Rose bowls serve as rotating sites for two semifinal games.
Conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick are leaning heavily toward offering a national championship game to the highest bidder, which might include host cities of the current BCS bowls, or new hosts such as Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Indianapolis, sources familiar with the discussions told ESPN.com.
After three days of meetings, college football certainly seems headed to a four-team playoff. A final decision might come before the end of the summer, if not sooner, but the postseason changes wouldn't take effect until the 2014 season.
The current BCS system, which pits the two highest-rated teams in the final BCS standings in a national championship game, will remain in place during the next two seasons.
Sources told ESPN.com that the commissioners are leaning toward incorporating the existing BCS bowls into a playoff. Instead of designating two BCS bowls as the host sites for two semifinal games before a particular season, the sites wouldn't be determined until the four participating teams were named.
In an effort to maintain a sense of tradition, conferences would keep their relationships with BCS bowl games -- the highest-ranked ACC team would play in the Orange Bowl, Big 12 in the Fiesta, Big Ten and Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl, and SEC in the Sugar Bowl.
For instance, if Alabama finished No. 1 in the retooled BCS standings, the Crimson Tide would host the No. 4 seed in a national semifinal game at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. If Oregon finished No. 2, the Ducks would host the No. 3 seed in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO in Pasadena, Calif.
A source familiar with the discussions said he preferred this particular plan because it "preserves tradition and the regional tie-ins."
The source said it also solved the "Rose Bowl problem" -- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott have maintained their leagues' desire to play in the Rose Bowl every season.
Under this proposed plan, if a Big Ten or Pac-12 team finished in the top two spots, it would automatically play in Pasadena. And if a Big Ten or Pac-12 team didn't finish in the top two, teams from those leagues might still play in the Rose Bowl, as long as they were among the teams included in the BCS pool. The source said the plan maintained those leagues' relationships with the Rose Bowl, without giving them an "obscene consideration."
Sources told ESPN.com that conference commissioners were still weighing the positives and negatives of the proposed plan. One potential issue is that based on historical results, the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl might host national semifinal games more frequently than the Orange Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. As a result, financial considerations among the BCS bowls would have to be negotiated for the plan to work.
The proposed plan also would give fans less than a month to arrange travel plans to cities if their teams are selected to play in the national semifinals and then travel for a championship game a week later if their team wins.
Additionally, sources told ESPN.com that BCS officials also would like to maintain the number of teams selected to play in BCS bowl games. Under current BCS rules, 10 teams are selected to play in BCS bowl games -- the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC champions are automatic qualifiers, along with four at-large selections. FBS conference commissioners have decided to eliminate designating conferences as "AQ" or "non-AQ" leagues, meaning any team in the top 10 of the final BCS standings would be eligible to play in a BCS bowl game, regardless of its conference affiliation.
If BCS officials decide to maintain a pool of 10 teams playing in BCS bowl games, a fifth bowl game probably would be elevated to BCS status, possibly the Cotton Bowl in Dallas or Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.
Commissioners also discussed having the host city of next season's national championship game host a BCS bowl game as a "dry run" to a title game.
If the 11 FBS conferences and independent schools decide to incorporate the existing BCS bowl games into a four-team playoff, the sites of the two national semifinal games might be determined by conference affiliations of the two highest-ranked teams.