Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The culmination of the Bowl Championship Series' National Championship game between Florida State and Auburn marked the end of an era for college football.
Beginning this upcoming season, a four-team playoff format will be used to determine college football's national championship. The finality of the BCS system is something that was widely debated on for years, and now that it's finally over a much more concrete champion can be crowned.
The regular season will sift through the multiple conferences and teams, and when it's all over, four programs will be left to play a tournament-style postseason for a chance at the title.
It's an upgrade in the sense that outside factors will play little to no role in crowning a national champion, which is something the BCS system couldn't necessarily boast.
Previously generated by polls and computers, the BCS and its championship game were products of the NCAA. This new playoff format is free from any outside forces; the four playoff teams will be selected by a committee of 13 members who will base their selections on the regular season. No ties to the NCAA or its proceeds.
And there's no limitation in terms of conferences that can make the four-team bracket. If, for example, the playoff system were used this January, Auburn and Alabama - both from the Southeastern Conference - would have been participants.
It's a much more clearly defined system than that of the former BCS. Other sections of college football, like the Division-I Football Championship Subdivision, have been utilizing a playoff system for decades to determine a title winner. At the FCS level, 24 teams compete in a tournament-style playoff system. Four teams is a start for the Football Bowl Subdivision, but the best part is there's room for growth in the future.
The playoff system also restores some glorification to the more historic and heralded bowl games that have lost their luster over the years with the addition of countless others. Six bowl games will be used on a rotation basis to host the two semifinal matchups in the system's three-year rotation cycle.
The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, for example, will be used as the semifinal matchups in January of 2015 - the first run at the playoff system. The winners of those two bowl games will move on to face each other in the national championship game. In future years, the Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Chik-Fil-A Bowl will be used as semifinals hosts.
The knock on the BCS in year's past was that it wasn't as inclusive as defining a national champion should have been. Not only does this playoff system seek to amend that, but it also returns some of the glamour to New Year's Day, as once again there is incentive to being in a sought-after bowl contest.
Like college basketball's Final Four, cities and locations can submit claims to host a national championship game, which will be determined by the playoff group's leaders based on those bids. The title game venue following this upcoming college season will be AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. In 2016, the site is University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, and Raymond James Stadium in Florida in 2017.
To completely sever its ties with the BCS, college football will present a new national title trophy for the winner. The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) crystal football won't be awarded anymore, which was a tradition since its inception in 1986. Officials reportedly wanted to be completely disconnected with the former system altogether. To their credit, a fresh start really means as much.
It was evident the interest in the BCS system was starting to decline, and year after year the NCAA fielded more and more questions and complaints regarding the title game system.
A playoff is exactly what was needed, because any small-scale slip up in the regular season for a major power could have had drastic implications on the outcome of its season. There's always room for expansion in the future if need be. Whether the NCAA decides to make it an eight-team or 16-team playoff is yet to be seen. We know for at least the next few years the tournament-style playoff can develop in test stages.
Florida State's last-minute touchdown to lift the Seminoles over Auburn in the BCS title game provided a perfect send-off as we move into a more fundamental era of college football and its postseason.