The first step toward expansion of the College Football Playoff happened on Thursday when a working group presented a proposal to change the format from four to 12 teams.
"The four-team format has been very popular and is a big success," the members of the four-person working group said in a statement. "But it's important that we consider the opportunity for more teams and more student-athletes to participate in the playoff.
“After reviewing numerous options, we believe this proposal is the best option to increase participation, enhance the regular season and grow the national excitement of college football."
The proposal calls for the bracket to include the six highest-ranked conference champions and the six remaining highest-ranked as determined by the College Football Playoff selection committee. There would not be any automatic bids for conferences nor would there be any limits on the number of participants from a single conference.
The four highest-ranked conference champions would be seeded No. 1-4 and receive a first-round bye, while the teams seeded No. 5-12 would play on the home field of the higher-ranked team. The quarterfinals and semifinals would be played in bowl games, presumably those that make up the current College Football Playoff rotation (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Peach and Fiesta bowls), while the championship game would be at another neutral site.
The working group, which consists of Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson, presented their recommendation to the rest of the College Football Playoff management committee on Thursday afternoon.
The next step in the process is for the 11-member committee - which includes Bowlsby, Sankey, Swarbrick, Thompson, American Athletic Conference commission Mike Aresco, Sun Belt Conference commissioner Keith Gill, Conference USA commissioner Judy MacLeod, Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner Jim Phillips, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher and Big Ten commission Kevin Warren – will now review the recommendation at their upcoming meeting in Chicago on June 17-18.
“Now that the working group has presented its proposal, the management committee will solicit input from university presidents, coaches, athletics directors, student-athletes and others,” College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said. “That input will help inform what the management committee recommends to the ultimate decision-makers — the presidents and chancellors who serve on the board of managers.”
If the committee endorses the proposal, reaches a consensus on an alternative model or decides to retain the current format, it will forward a recommendation to the College Football Playoff board of managers, which will meet in Dallas on June 22.
Following a summer study period, the board would meet again in September, at which time they could formally announce the change in format.
"This is a very exciting moment for college football," the working group members said. "We think we can capture what student-athletes and fans love about the game and extend it to more people in more places, while enhancing what's great about the regular season."
It’s unclear when the new format could begin, though Hancock said t will not change until 2023 at the earliest. The current agreement for the four-team playoff runs through the 2025-26 season.
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