Jim Delany joined the growing group of voices calling for an examination–and possible expansion–of the current four-team College Football Playoff format.

By Emily Caron
December 18, 2018

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told The Athletic that his conference is open to conversation about potential expansion from the current four-team College Football Playoff format.

“The Big Ten would be happy to discuss structure issues with colleagues,” Delany told the publication. “It’s probably a good idea, given all of the conversations and noise around the issue, to have discussions with our colleagues.

He added: “The Big Ten would definitely have conversations.”

Delany is not the first to call for an examination of the current structure or to support conversations about expedited expansion. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby expressed a similar interest in an article published by The Athletic last week.

“It’s an appropriate thing to begin thinking about,” Bowlsby said.

The current College Football Playoff is just four years in to a 12-year contract with ESPN, but Delany and Bowlsby want conversation about departing from the format earlier than it's current 2026 ending and expanding the field.

Delany joins many of the athletic directors within his conference in vocalizing the desire for such talks to begin. The Big Ten conference champion has not been included in the four-team College Football Playoff for three consecutive years.

“What I would like to see is anything we can do to take it out of the boardroom and put it more back on the field and have the student-athletes decide it,” Northwestern, a Big Ten West school, athletic director Jim Phillips said. “I’m supremely confident that we can figure this out across all of our conferences across college football, and I think we can get it to a better place. It really is up to us as caretakers and stewards of this great game that we really do things together collaboratively and have really open and honest discussions about it.

“We don’t think that conference champions have been properly respected as intended by the founders of the Playoff system. And, regarding strength of schedule — or you could look at the other end, weakness of schedule — it’s been turned upside down. It’s been inconsistently applied and those that have been intentional about challenging themselves with their 12 games, I don’t think they’ve been rewarded for those. It’s clear to me that we have enough data after these five years, and I don’t see the trends changing.”

STAPLES: In Playoff Expansion Conversation, Recent Snubs Aren't the Only Thing on the Big Ten's Mind

Phillips said he supports eight-team models, as opposed to the current four. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, whose team will play in a CFB Playoff semifinal on Dec. 29, would also be on board with an eight-team field.

Kelly told reporters last Saturday that he senses there is "an appetite to begin dialogue" surrounding expansion of the College Football Playoff, according to ESPN's Dan Murphy.

“If there’s going to be expansion of any kind, we would prefer that to include eight,” Kelly added to The Athletic. “That gives the Power 5 their champions and opens up more opportunities for at-large. […] Can you open the field to more teams is really the question."

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez also spoke on the subject, echoing calls for expansion. His program went just 7–5 in 2018 after finishing with a school-record 13 wins a season before.

"Everyone has the same feeling; expansion is inevitable," Alvarez told The Athletic last week. “When you can do it, and I think we need to serve more people. I think four was the right way to get started. In my opinion, we need to take a look of adding more teams into the playoff, giving more opportunities."

The aforementioned coaches and programs are not the first to ask for a review of the format. UCF has been calling for expansion after playing two consecutive undefeated seasons but never advancing higher than eighth in the national rankings. 

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