Like it or not, expansion of the College Football Playoff appears inevitable. The only question is how many teams will be able to participate?
According to a report from Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, key stakeholders such as university officials, athletic directors and media executives, among others, seem to favor a 12-team playoff as the most likely result.
“The next three weeks offer a critical period in charting what the future of the College Football Playoff will look like,” Thamel said. “A pair of CFP meetings are expected to decide a specific recommendation, with a final decision, details and television contract determined later in the fall.”
“While it’s unfair to say momentum has built toward a 12-team playoff before models have been presented to the commissioners or presidents, the 12-team model has emerged as the favored outcome over the eight-team playoff within the industry.”
The first step in the expansion process comes in mid-June when a four-member working group will report its findings to the College Football Playoff management committee, which includes SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson.
The management committee will then make a recommendation to the College Football Playoff board of managers, which includes a group of 11 presidents and chancellors from the 10 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences plus Notre Dame, who will then determine the future of the playoff.
“Multiple sources cautioned against predicting a definitive outcome,” Thamel said. “The complications that come with group dynamics and varying agendas are real. Also, there are no plans to present or discuss any specifics of what the financial ramifications would be from a new television deal that would come with an expanded playoff. Television discussions, which are critical, would come in upcoming months.”
While a decision could be made this summer, it’s unlikely that playoff expansion will be formally announced until such negotiations are finished. It’s expected that any television contract would fetch far more than the current one 12-year deal that average $470 million per year.
As for how a 12-team playoff would work, it would include automatic bids for the ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, SEC and Pac-12 as well as the highest-ranked Group of Five champion. The six other spots would be at-large bids.
“That gives automatic bids to some of the have-nots and more potential spots for the more powerful leagues, and compromise is important in a vote where consensus is needed.” Thamel said.
Details on the format would need to be ironed out, but the thought is that the top four teams would have a bye and schools ranked No. 5-8 would host the teams ranked No. 9-12 at their home stadiums. It’s also expected that the high-profile bowl games such as the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Peach and Fiesta bowls will remain part of the playoff system in some form.
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