HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — College football is on the verge of finally having a playoff, its own version of the final four.
For the first time, all the power brokers who run the highest level of the sport are comfortable with the idea of deciding a championship the way it's done in just about every other sport.
"Yes, we've agreed to use the P word," Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said.
They want to limit it to four teams. That's for sure. Now they just have to figure out how to pick the teams, where and when to play the games and what to do with the bowls. The new format would go into effect after for the 2014 season.
As for the current Bowl Championship Series, it's on life support. Any chance that it survives past the next two seasons? "I hope not," Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive said Thursday.
"This is a seismic change for college football," BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said after the 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame's athletic director wrapped up three days of meetings at a beachside hotel in south Florida.
Hancock actually used the word "playoff" when describing what was being considered, and that alone signaled a shift in thinking for the BCS. In a memo leading up to these meetings, the term "four-team event" was used to describe creating two national semifinals and a championship game.
Hancock said the commissioners will present a "small number" of options for a four-team playoff to their leagues over the next month or so at conference meetings. Hancock estimated about two to seven configurations are being considered.
The exact number hardly matters.
Now it's up to each conference to determine which option it likes best. The commissioners will get back together in June and try to come up with a final version, and eventually the university presidents will have sign off on it. That would probably come in July.
Hancock warned that if no agreement is reached, the fallback could be sticking with an overhauled version of the old system, which aims for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 championship game.
But that seems like a longshot.
"It's great to get to a point where there seems to be general consensus that a four-team, three-game playoff is the best route to go," Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford said. "The next challenge obviously is figuring out a format that brings consensus where we can truly make that work. The more this narrows, the more challenging it gets."