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COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Rose, Sugar, Cotton chosen as first college football playoff sites; Alabama ends season No. 1 for record ninth time

BCS commissioner Bill Hancock

BCS commissioner Bill Hancock

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — The first semifinal games in the new college football playoff system will be played in the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015.

The BCS conference commissioners announced the dates and rotation for all 12 years of the upcoming postseason format after a meeting in Key Biscayne on Monday, the day after the BCS championship game in Miami.

“It was not a one-year decision, it had to be a 12-year decision,” BCS executive director Bill Hancock said. “Calendar issues, days of rest. Sugar and Rose were paired together because of the days of rest since they are playing the same day.”

Whether they are hosting a semifinal or just a marquee bowl game, the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl will always be played on Jan. 1, or Jan. 2 in years in which New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday. In the eight years in which the Rose and Sugar do not host the semifinals, the four playoff teams will kick off on New Year’s Eve or Saturday, Dec. 30.

Either way there will be a triple-header of major college football games, two semifinals and four other marquee bowl games, on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day starting from the 2014 season to the 2025 season.

“Those days will belong to college football,” Hancock said.

The Rose Bowl will also be the site of the last BCS championship game on Jan. 1, 2014.

The site of the first championship game in the new system is still to be picked, though Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, seems to be the front-runner. The title games will always be played on Mondays, at least seven days after the semifinals. The first one will be played Jan. 12, 2015.

The earliest the championship game will be played is Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. The latest the championship game will be played is Jan. 13, and that will happen twice, in 2020 and 2025.

In the second year of the playoff, the Orange Bowl will host a semifinal on Dec. 31, 2015, along with one of three other sites still to be determined.

The preference is to have three more sites in three times zones, and they are expected to be Atlanta (Chick-fil-A Bowl), Arlington, Texas (Cotton Bowl) and Glendale, Ariz. (Fiesta).

Hancock said the commissioners are on track to have those sites locked in by the end of their late April meetings in Pasadena. The site for the first championship game is expected to be chosen sooner.

“This was really a basic meeting,” Hancock said. “The balls that are still in the air are the (selection) committee, protocol and structure, what we’re going to call it.”

It was a year ago in New Orleans that the commissioners had what was the first meeting that led to the end of the BCS as we know it and the implementation of the four-team playoff.

“When we met this date last year in New Orleans we all knew that we were going to embark on a very significant review and potential restructuring,” Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive said.

With the calendar set, the sites coming into focus, the next big issue left is the selection committee.

“I think April will be the action month in a lot of respects,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said.

The concept the commissioners are working with is about 18 people, mostly current college sports administrators, such as conference commissioners and athletic directors. Every conference and independent in major college football would be represented.

Delany said he hopes that by requiring the committee to emphasize strength of schedule it will force programs to rethink some of those cupcake games that inflate records. And that a couple of losses against good teams won’t necessarily eliminate a team from playing in the four-team playoff

“It certainly has evolved in men’s basketball,” he said. “Everybody who is 20-10 doesn’t get to the tournament. I think the new committee is sort of important to reinforce that. What they do in the first two, three, four years is going to really determine the messages that are being sent. The basketball committee has consistently sent the message that who you play and who you beat is more important than the record.”


ALABAMA #1, UGA #5 IN FINAL AP TOP 25:

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Alabama is No. 1 at being No. 1.

The Crimson Tide (13-1) was voted national champion by The Associated Press for the ninth time, more than any other program in college football, after routing Notre Dame 42-14 on Monday night.

Notre Dame, No. 1 coming into the BCS championship, dropped to No. 4.

The Tide entered the title game with as many AP titles as the Fighting Irish, and emphatically broke the tie for first. It’s Alabama’s second straight title and third in four years. The only other team to win three AP titles in four seasons was Notre Dame from 1946-49.

“It won’t sink in until everything settles down,” Alabama senior linebacker Nico Johnson said. “To play for three national championships in my career … that’s special.”

Alabama finished No. 1 five times under Paul “Bear” Bryant during his 25 years as coach, and Gene Stalling coached to the Crimson Tide to another championship in 1992.

Saban is now more than halfway to matching the Bear in six seasons as Alabama coach.

The Tide received all 59 of the first-place votes in the final media poll of the season, and will be a candidate to start next season No. 1. This season Alabama started second, was ranked No. 1 for 10 weeks before losing to Texas A&M in November and falling to fourth. The Tide quickly moved back to No. 2 and for the second straight season beat No. 1 in the BCS title game to finish on top.

Oregon (12-1) finished second, matching its best final ranking from 2001. Ohio State (12-0), the only undefeated team in major college football but banned from the postseason because of NCAA sanctions, was third. Georgia and Texas A&M tied for fifth to cap another banner season for the Southeastern Conference.

Alabama is the seventh straight SEC team to finish No. 1 and the toughest conference in college football also became the first league to have five of top 10 teams in the final rankings.

South Carolina was No. 8 and Florida was ninth.

Texas A&M, in its first season in the SEC, finished with its best final AP rankings since 1956.

The SEC also matched a record with seven teams in the final Top 25. LSU was 14th and Vanderbilt was 23rd. The SEC and Big Ten both finished with seven teams in the final rankings of the 1999 season.

Stanford was seventh and Florida State was 10th.

The Seminoles’ ACC rival, Clemson, was 11th, followed by Kansas State and Louisville.

After LSU, was Oklahoma at No. 15. Utah State is the highest ranked team from a conference without a BCS automatic qualifying bid. The Aggies won the Western Athletic Conference in its last season as a football league.

Northwestern was 17th, Boise State was No. 18, Texas was 19th and Oregon State 20th.

The final five were San Jose State, another WAC team, Northern Illinois from the Mid-American Conference, Vandy, Michigan and Nebraska.