WASHINGTON - After years of controversy and barroom debate, major-college football finally will get a postseason playoff in the 2014 season. The current, much-derided method for producing a champion, the Bowl Championship Series, will be replaced by a four-team playoff, the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee announced yesterday.

WASHINGTON - After years of controversy and barroom debate, major-college football finally will get a postseason playoff in the 2014 season.

The current, much-derided method for producing a champion, the Bowl Championship Series, will be replaced by a four-team playoff, the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee announced yesterday.

The four national semifinalists will be selected by a committee, much like the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments are set. No conference will automatically qualify one of its teams.

The two semifinal games - No.1 vs. No.4 and No.2 vs. No.3 - will be rotated among six bowl sites over a 12-year period and will be played on either Dec. 31 or Jan. 1. The four current BCS bowls - Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar - will be included, along with two more sites to be determined.

The championship game will be held at a neutral site, and cities will have the opportunity to bid on the event. The game will be played on the first Monday in January that is six days or more after the last semifinal. The first championship Monday is set for Jan.12, 2015.

"It will be much like the Super Bowl," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. "I think it's going to be great for the sport."

The committee's approval of the plan, which was proposed by the commissioners of the BCS conferences along with Notre Dame, ended a six-month period that was filled with meetings, proposals and seemingly more questions than answers.

"It's a best-of-both-worlds result," Virginia Tech president Charles Steger said. "It captures the excitement of a playoff while protecting the best regular season in sports, and also the tradition of the bowls. A four-team playoff doesn't go too far; it goes just far enough."

Nebraska president Harvey Perlman said he advocated for a "plus-one" model that would have added a championship game after the completion of the bowl season, although he said he was OK with the new playoff system.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith also said he backed the outcome.

"I'm supportive of it, considering we couldn't maintain the status quo or end up with campus sites," Smith said. "I'm glad it ended up the way it did. I think it's good to have it in the bowl system."

The playoff selection committee's makeup has not been determined. Its criteria for evaluating teams will include record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results and whether it is a conference champion.

"I like that we're doing a selection committee," said Smith, who previously served on the men's basketball selection committee. "I think the bowls have served us well, but I think the selection committee will do a better job."

John Swofford, commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, said he would like the committee to consist of at least 12 members, leaving leeway in case committee members must step aside while teams they are associated with are discussed. (The NCAA basketball tournament's selection committee has 10 members.) Delany said he expected the committee to include more than 10 but fewer than 20 members, including administrators and possibly current or former coaches.

Most important, Delany said of the committee's members, they must watch plenty of college football.

"You can't pass the eye test unless you watch," Delany said. "You have to use your eyes."

Delany said that controversy remains inevitable - there will be debate about those left out of the playoff in the process of winnowing 120-plus teams to four. But the presidents and conference commissioners said they feel strongly that this is a step in the right direction.

"Where we've arrived, I think, is a consensus built on compromise," Swofford said.

The other main hurdles include television contracts and revenue distribution models. When asked how the revenue system might change, Oregon State president Ed Ray had a succinct but honest prediction:

"Up," he said, smiling and pointing skyward.

The BCS currently generates about $180 million from its television contract with ESPN, which runs through 2013. Many observers expect the TV rights for the playoff format to be worth more than $400 million when put up for bid this fall. The commissioners want to lock in the format for 12 years.

And while there's plenty new with the playoff system, it also will need a new name. Yesterday, the university presidents stood in front of a large canvas displaying the seemingly defunct BCS logo.

"Right now, we don't have a name," Perlman said, shrugging. "But my hunch is that it will not be BCS."

Dispatch reporter Bill Rabinowitz contributed to this story.