CFP Expansion to 12-Team Format Takes Another Step Toward Approval

The College Football Playoff management committee met in Chicago to review the 12-team format
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Expansion of the College Football Playoff took another step toward becoming reality when the CFP management committee met to review a proposal that would transform the current four-team field to a 12-team format. 

Next up, it goes before the university presidents and chancellors, who comprise the CFP's board of managers. They're expected to also green light the initiative Tuesday in Dallas. 

If so, the College Football Playoff management committee will begin to work out the details of implementing the new format, with the next meeting scheduled for September. 

"The process will move forward," said CFP executive director Bill Hancock, who said the proposal is still in the "kicking the tires" stages.  

He added that generally "everyone in the room liked what they saw" in Chicago, but the overriding theme of the meeting was that people need more time to process the proposal and get feedback. 

That includes from student-athletes, university presidents and chancellors, athletics directors and coaches

There is no plan B being discussed 

"Let's face this, this is a big deal," Hancock said. "Everyone needs a voice in this and there just hasn't been enough time to review with people back on campus."

The earliest a 12-team playoff could be used is 2023. The current 12-year CFP agreement runs through the 2025-26 season.

The committee, comprised of the 10 Football Bowl Subdivision conference commissioners and the Notre Dame director of athletics, met Thursday and Friday in Chicago to discuss a recommendation from a working group of four of its members charged with considering options for the future format of the playoff.

The working group, tasked with exploring expansion, included SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson, and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

A 12-team playoff could answer complaints regarding the continued exclusion of Group of Five schools, and from conferences that haven't been able to regularly have a spot in the four-team field.

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In a 12-team system, automatic bids would go to six highest-ranked conference champions, plus the six highest-ranked other teams as determined by the College Football Playoff selection committee. The other six spots would be filled by at-large teams. 

The top four teams landing automatic teams would have a first-round bye. The first-round games featuring teams ranked 5-12 would be played on the home field of the higher-ranked team, with the quarterfinals and semifinals slotted for bowl sites, and the national championship still played at a neutral site.

All 11 football entities that are part of the College Football Playoff contract had to agree on expansion for it to proceed. 

The current College Football Playoff matches the No. 1 ranked team vs. No. 4, and No. 2 vs. No. 3 in semifinal games that rotate annually among six bowl games: the Cotton Bowl Classic, Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl. 

“The working group’s proposal was the first step in a long process," Hancock said. "It’s important to reach out and listen to a wide variety of people involved in college football."

Among the concerns being voiced with expanding the playoff include physical well-being of the athletes, fans unable to afford more games and travel, and more bowl games becoming obsolete. 

When asked on how playoff expansion might end up shrinking the bowl system, Hancock said: "That won't be for us to say. We manage our event ... My strongest answer to that is there will always be a place for bowl games."