College Football Playoff Expansion: Board Agrees To 12-Team Field With Goal To Implement As Soon As Possible

The College Football Playoff Board of Managers voted Friday to expand the playoff field to 12 teams with the goal of implementing the larger format as soon as possible, sources told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. The unanimous vote is an important first step in pushing the playoffs beyond the current four-team format.

The expanded 12-team bracket, which the board wants to start as early as the 2024 season, will feature the top six ranked conference champions as automatic qualifiers along with the top six overall teams after the season.

While the 11-member board, including college presidents and chancellors representing each of FBS’s 10 conferences, plus Notre Dame President John Jenkins, has approved the expansion as a concept, it is only the first step in ensuring that the field moves beyond four teams. It is now up to the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, who make up the CFP Management Committee, to oversee implementation.

The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday in Irving, Texas.

Among the top issues on the docket will be when to begin implementation of the 12-team field. It could be instituted as early as 2024 or as late as the 2026 season once CFP’s 12-year contract with ESPN expires.

A CFP subcommittee made up of FBS commissioners who developed this 12-team bracket received a favorable reception when it was first introduced in June 2021. After that introduction and before the expansion could be approved, the realignment rocked sports. college students when Texas and Oklahoma announced plans to leave the Big 12 for the SEC.

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Since SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and then-Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby were on that CFP subcommittee, ranks were shaken with other conference commissioners halting expansion talks while they reassessed their venues. leagues in sport.

First came an alliance between the ACC, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 with the conferences agreeing to vote as a bloc on key issues. That alliance stood in the way of expansion on January 10 with an 8-3 tally in favor of moving to a larger field; a unanimous vote was required to approve the expansion. In February 2022, with the board largely expecting a rubber stamp on the previous vote, the expansion was considered a shelved issue for the foreseeable future.

The Big Ten that snatched USC and UCLA out of the Pac-12 last offseason, a continuation of this round of realignment, clearly put an end to that short-lived alliance. Perhaps it opened the door to reinvigorated talks given that the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 won’t be generating media rights revenue at the level of the Big Ten and SEC anytime soon.

CFP CEO Bill Hancock previously stated that the playoffs would not be expanded before the end of his current contract, which is due to expire in 2025. By launching national championship game sites through the 2025 season just weeks ago, Atlanta will be the host after the 2024 season, South Florida next year — the CFP apparently confirmed that a format change would not happen sooner.

If CFP aims to expand before the expiration of its contract with ESPN, it faces the hurdle of having to find enough game sites (possibly on campus for early-round games) and enact the proper logistics (rooms hotel, practice facilities, etc.) in a short period of time. While those are still big hurdles, Dodd was told by multiple sources that it could all be cleared up with 28 months to go in a potentially expanded playoff run in 2024.

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“My answer in general is, if people are willing [to do it]anything can happen,” said Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson, one of four key members of that subcommittee along with Sankey, Bowlsby and Swarbrick.

A 12-team playoff has been valued at $1.2 billion annually, industry sources told Dodd, up from the current $600 million CFP is earning from ESPN. By not enacting the expansion before the 2026 season, the CFP would be leaving a significant amount of money on the table. ESPN would have the rights to any additional CFP games during the last two years of his 12-year contract.

There remains widespread support for CFP’s media rights to go out to multiple bidders once ESPN’s contract expires. The Big Ten recently signed a $1.2 billion annual deal with CBS, Fox, and NBC to broadcast their games.

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