KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — When college football teams open practice for the 2014 season, chief among their goals will be getting to New Orleans and Pasadena, Calif.
BCS conference commissioners met here Tuesday and confirmed what has been widely speculated: the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl will host the first semifinal games for college football’s new four-team playoff.
The Sugar and Rose will be paired together through the entire 12-year run of the playoff, both hosting semifinal games in 2015, 2018, 2021 and 2024.
The games will be played back-to-back on Jan. 1, with the Rose kicking off about 4 p.m. Central Time and the Sugar Bowl immediately following about 7:30 p.m.
Both bowls will be televised on ESPN.
“We are very excited to be in the leadoff position for something like this,” Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan said. “We look forward to being in tandem with the Rose. We think it will make for a special night.”
In the other eight years of the playoff system that the Sugar does not host semifinal games, it will pair either the SEC and Big 12 champions or the best available teams from those conferences not in the playoff.
In those eight nonsemifinal years, New Orleans may also land the national championship game.
Unlike in the current BCS format, the playoff championship game will not follow a set rotation but will be awarded on bids much like the Super Bowl.
Hoolahan said he has told his staff to expect to host the championship twice in that 12-year span as a guide.
There was no site announcement for the first playoff championship game, but it does have a date: Monday, Jan. 12, 2015.
Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, site of the Cotton Bowl, is reportedly the front-runner. An announcement is expected to come no later than April.
The national championship game will be played on a Monday night each year, moving between Jan. 7 to Jan. 13, depending how the calendar falls.
The next two or three championship game sites after that will likely be selected in the next six months, according to BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock.
The Sugar and Rose bowls will be played each year on Jan. 1, except when New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday, the final day of the NFL regular season. In those years, the Sugar and Rose will be played on Jan. 2.
Hancock said the Sugar and Rose were paired together for a variety of reasons, among them calendar issues stemming from the fact that their contracts guarantee they will be played on New Year’s Day.
There will be at minimum one week between the Sugar and Rose bowl semifinals and the national championship game.
No city will host semifinals and the national championship game in the same year, but can have its traditional bowl and the championship game, similar to the current BCS “double hosting” format.
A total of six bowls will be part of the playoff semifinal rotation, each hosting four semifinals in a 12-year span.
So far, only the Sugar, Rose and Orange have been guaranteed slots. The Cotton, Chick-fil-A and Fiesta bowls are the favorites to be chosen.
The Orange Bowl will have semifinal games on Dec. 31 in 2015, 2018, 2021 and 2024.
Hancock said the Orange would likely be paired with a bowl from a western or central region, with ESPN reporting it would be the Cotton or Fiesta.
The semifinal hosts for 2016-17, 2019-20, 2022-23 and 2025-26 will come from the two bowls yet to be chosen, but they will again likely come from two different geographic regions, Hancock said.
The final BCS National Championship Game under the current format will be played Jan. 6, 2014, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
“I think the Rose will be pleased to have the championship game and follow it up the next year with the semifinals,” Hancock said.
The 2014 Sugar Bowl will be played on Thursday, Jan. 2.
A meeting is set for April in Pasadena to firm up more details for the playoff system.
“We still have the matter of the championship game sites, the other three semifinal sites, the name (of the playoff) and the (selection) committee,” Hancock said. “Those balls are still in the air, and I think they will be until that April meeting.”
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said he believes the most pressing issue is to name the remaining semifinal bowls and the first several championship game sites, “because there’s so much work to do.”
Slive said the commissioners also talked Tuesday about what name the playoff will go under “in a very preliminary way.”
Hancock said emphatically at Saturday’s BCS championship game media day that the playoff system would not be called the BCS.