Fiesta Bowl picked for 2016 semifinals

College football fans have long been clamoring for a playoff system, and thanks to the new format Valley football fans will get a piece of the action — but not right off the bat.

The Fiesta Bowl announced Wednesday afternoon it will host its first semifinal game of the new College Football Playoff at University of Phoenix Stadium after the 2016 season.

“We are looking forward to playing a key role in the College Football Playoff and extending our tradition of bringing elite college football games to Arizona,” Fiesta Bowl executive director Robert Shelton said in a statement. “As a truly neutral site, we will welcome the most deserving teams from the nation’s top conferences.”

The playoff system kicks in after the 2014 season, with the semifinals at the Rose and Sugar bowls, followed by the championship game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The Cotton and Orange bowls were selected as semifinal sites for the 2015 season, with the Fiesta and Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta hosting semifinals for the 2016 season.

The sites will rotate on a yearly basis.

The Fiesta Bowl semifinal game will be played in Glendale on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day of 2017, with the winner advancing to the College Football Playoff championship game.

The first championship game will be played Jan. 12, 2015, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Tampa, Fla. was also a finalist for the game.

While the Fiesta Bowl’s place as a semifinal host does not guarantee the opportunity to host a championship game, the Fiesta Bowl said it plans at some point to bid on the national championship game in the new format. The Fiesta Bowl has previously hosted seven title games.

The new format severs the Fiesta Bowl’s tie to the Big 12 Conference after this coming season. In years the Fiesta Bowl is not a semifinal game, a yet-to-be-named selection committee will select teams based on the usual factors such as proximity to the game site and ease of travel for fans. Those games will also be played on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.

Now that the sites are locked in, the only major remaining issue to tackle for the commissioners is the composition and structure of the selection committee, which will pick the teams that play for the national championship.