By Wednesday, college football officials are hoping to have agreed to a “framework” for an expanded College Football Playoff. And given the candid, progressive nature of last week’s meeting, CFP executives are confident in taking another step toward progress this week in Chicago.
The CFP Management Committee, made up of the 10 FBS conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, are scheduled to meet for several hours Tuesday to further examine an expanded playoff model—the latest step in hashing out differences among league leaders in a 12-team playoff model proposed this summer.
Tuesday’s meeting is seen as an extension of the commissioners’s get-together last week in Dallas—one described as candid and positive. While last week’s meeting identified the issues stopping unanimous consent, this week’s objective is solving those concerns, most of them from the Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC.
As detailed in Sports Illustrated’s story last week, the list of concerns most notably involves the Rose Bowl, media rights holders and the impacts of a 12-team playoff versus an eight-team playoff—impacts that include the first round infringing on the academic calendar, the winterization of on-campus stadiums and adverse effects on the bowls.
Many commissioners, and those briefed on the discussions, emerged from last week’s meeting holding cautious optimism that an agreement, eventually, could be reached on a 12-team format. While an eight-team playoff was discussed last week, it has generated support from “nowhere near a majority,” says one conference administrator.
However, league leaders remain more reserved on an expansion timeline, suggesting that there are significant barriers in expanding the field before the CFP’s current contract with ESPN expires after the 2025 season.
“Do we get to the point this week to say, ‘Except these three things, we’ve got a proposal.’ I don’t know if we will get to that,” says one executive.
Commissioners are scheduled to meet for several hours in person Tuesday before being joined virtually by the Board of Managers, 11 school presidents who serve as the executive decision-makers of the CFP and who tasked the commissioners two years ago with creating an expanded model. If needed, commissioners also have a scheduled time to meet Wednesday morning.
The Board of Managers was originally expected to attend Tuesday’s meeting and potentially approve a playoff model. That changed as differences among commissioners emerged over the last several weeks, triggered by conference realignment.
However, in an interview with Super Talk Mississippi on Friday, Mark Keenum, chairman of the Board of Managers and president of Mississippi State, painted an optimistic picture ahead of this week’s meetings.
“Hopefully they’ll be close and have a framework to give us guidance on where we may be heading in college football,” he told the station.
He described the commissioners’ meeting last week as “probably one of the better meetings they’ve had as far as focusing on where we need to go next as far as expansion." In a discussion last week with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Sankey told Keenum that commissioners “made really good progress” but were not in unanimous agreement yet.
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In an interview with SI, Sankey said of last week’s meeting, “I viewed it as a type of healthy dialogue I would have expected in early June.”
There is a proverbial play clock in this process. If a playoff is to expand before the contract ends—the earliest realistic goal is 2024—that decision needs to be made in the next few months. If expansion isn’t coming until 2026, that decision timeline can be extended by as many as two years.
At the center of much of this delay is ESPN, which many feel deceptively sparked the latest wave of conference realignment, though the network categorically denies such. There is resistance to having the network be the sole owner of an expanded playoff.
During last week’s meeting, commissioners heard a presentation from the CFP’s media consultants, who have held conversations with ESPN about an expanded playoff, sources tell SI. While details of those discussions are not known, one obvious thing emerged from the presentation: several media partners are interested in bidding on an expanded playoff—an unsurprising note, of course. A 12-team playoff would stand to be the most lucrative idea to emerge from college athletics, potentially tripling the annual revenue of the current four-team playoff (about $450 million).
But maybe the most essential thing to come from last week’s meeting? That there are further meetings this week.
A 12-team expansion is still alive. At least for now, anyhow.
More College Football Coverage:
• Brian Kelly Is Making Do With This Notre Dame Team So Far
• Arkansas Secures Spot in Top 10 As Chaotic CFB Landscape Shifts in Week 4
• Future Playoff Watch: What a 12-Team Bracket Would Look Like After Week 4
• For CFP Expansion Impasse to Pass, Warring Conferences Need to Make Peace
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