College Football Playoff expansion: Board agrees on 12-team field with goal to implement as soon as possible – CBS Sports

College Football Playoff expansion talks reignite: Friday meeting could create bigger field as soon as 2024 - CBS Sports

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

The expanded 12-team bracket will feature the six highest-ranked conference champions as automatic qualifiers along with the next six highest-ranked teams. The board approved the new format to be used beginning with the 2026 season, although it hopes it can be implemented sooner, perhaps as soon as the 2024 campaign.

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

The committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday in Irving, Texas. Among the main topics on the docket for the committee will be addressing the board’s request to implement the 12-team field by 2026 along with when and where games will be played. The CFP’s 12-year contract with ESPN expires after the 2025 season.

“This is a historic and exciting day for college football,” said Mississippi State CFP Board of Managers chairman and president Mark Keenum. “More teams, more participation and more excitement is good for our fans, alumni and student-athletes. I thank my colleagues on the board for their thoughtful approach to this issue and for their determination to get expansion across the finish line. and for the extensive work of the Management Committee that made that decision possible.”

Among the measures approved by the CFP board on Friday:

  • 12-team bracket: Six highest-ranked conference champions (no minimum seeding requirement), plus next six highest-ranked teams
  • Ranking system: CFP Selection Committee will continue to determine weekly rankings with criteria reevaluated
  • Placement of brackets: Four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded 1-4 with first-round byes; four highest remaining seeds will host lower seeds at locations to be determined
  • Planning: First-round games will be played at campus sites* on the second or third weekend in December, at least 12 days after conference championship games.
  • Bowl relationship: Quarter-final and semi-final games will be played at rotating bowl venues provided agreements are reached; national championship will continue to be played at neutral sites; existing conference affiliations with bowls will be considered for game placements

* Exceptions can be made, for example, if a team with a smaller stadium prefers to host in a larger nearby venue or a Big Ten team wants to play at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, home of the Big Ten Championship Game, sources told Dodd. . The CFP will also respect the Army-Navy Game window and not air playoff games head-to-head with the annual matchup.

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

Given SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and then-Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby were on that CFP subcommittee, the ranks were upset with other conference commissioners ending expansion conversations by reevaluating their leagues’ places in the sport.

First came an alliance between the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 where the conferences agreed 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 support of moving to a larger field; a unanimous vote was required to pass expansion. In February 2022, based on the board largely expected a rubber stamp in the previous vote, expansion was considered a shelved issue for the foreseeable future.

The Big Ten sweeping USC and UCLA of the Pac-12 this past offseason, a continuation of this round of realignment, brought a clear end to that short-lived alliance. It also opened the door to renewed talks, as the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 will not bring media rights revenue to the level of the Big Ten and SEC in the near future and may use CFP expansion to help secure their respective futures. .

CFP executive director Bill Hancock previously stated that the playoffs will not expand before the end of its current contract, which expires in 2025. Freeing up national championship playoff spots through the 2025 season just weeks ago – Atlanta will host after the 2024 season, South Florida next year — the CFP has apparently confirmed that a format change will not happen sooner.

If the CFP seeks to expand before the end of its ESPN contract, it faces a hurdle of needing to find sufficient playing fields (perhaps on campus for early round games) and realize appropriate logistics (hotel rooms, practice facilities, etc.) in a short period of time. While those remain major hurdles, several sources told Dodd that all could be cleared with 28 months until a potentially expanded final in 2024.

“My answer generally is if people want to [to do it]anything can happen,” said Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson, one of the four key members of that subcommittee along with Sankey, Bowlsby and Swarbrick.

A 12-team playoff was valued at $1.2 billion annually, industry sources told Dodd, more than the current $600 million CFP earns from ESPN. By not pursuing expansion before the 2026 season, the CFP would be leaving significant money on the table. ESPN would have rights to some additional CFP games through the final two years of its 12-year deal.

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

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