College Football Playoff to expand to 12-team format – ESPN

College Football Playoff to expand to 12-team format - ESPN

The College Football Playoff board of administrators voted unanimously Friday to expand the CFP to 12 teams in 2026 but is urging the sport’s commissioners to try to implement it as soon as 2024.

In what was described as a “historic day for college football,” the board’s 11 presidents and chancellors approved the original 12-team model, which was first announced last summer and includes the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large teams. . , announced the board.

“There are still quite a few issues that need to be resolved — some very obvious logistical issues that need to be resolved — but our hope is that we can get it. [the commissioners] to move this forward as quickly as it is possible to do so,” said Mississippi State President Mark Keenum, chairman of the CFP board of trustees. “We have asked our commissioners, the executive committee, to explore the possibility of us starting the 12- an. -team playoff format prior to the 2026 season, in either 2024 or 2025.”

The 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick will meet next Thursday in Irving, Texas, to begin discussions about possibly implementing the format as early as 2024.

Team rankings will continue to be determined by the CFP selection committee, which will remain largely unchanged.

The four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded one through four with each receiving a first-round bye. Teams ranked five through 12 will play each other in the first round on either the second or third weekend of December. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played in bowl games on a rotating basis, and the championship game will be at a neutral site, as under the current four-team format.

“This is an exciting day for the future of college football,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “As originally proposed, the 12-team playoff creates more access for teams and conferences across the country to compete in college football’s championship event. There is work to be done to make this format a reality, but I’m glad we’re all moving in. the same direction with a common goal.”

The 12-team model was originally put together by Sankey, Swarbrick, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson and former Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. It was floated publicly in June 2021 but stalled by conference politics. In February, the CFP announced that it would not expand on the current contract, which expires after the 2025 season.

The most important theft was specific objections from the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12. But after the blitz of realignment this summer with USC and UCLA committing to the Big Ten and that conference signing a historic television deal, the issues of those leagues began to fade into the background.

“The Pac-12 strongly favors CFP expansion and welcomes the CFP Board’s decision,” the Pac-12 said in a statement Friday. “CFP expansion will provide increased access and excitement and is the right thing to do for our student-athletes and fans. We look forward to working with our fellow conferences to finalize the important elements of an expanded CFP to launch as soon as possible.”

When asked specifically about those three conferences now voting in favor of expansion, Keenum said it was a matter of those leagues and everyone else is “doing their due diligence” and talking to each member.

“They put in the time, they put in the effort to get to this point,” Keenum said. “And so I think it’s just been a cumulative effort by all these individuals to get to the point where they feel — not just these particular conferences, but all the conferences that are on the board — have gone through the same process.”

After a year of indecision and mistrust among the commissioners, which boiled over and sometimes played out publicly, the presidents have dominated the decision-making process in recent weeks. The presidents and chancellors have the ultimate authority over the final, but typically the commissioners present a plan to them for approval.

Two weeks ago, the CFP board held an unannounced call, discussing expansion and the possibility of a 12-team playoff starting amid the structure of the current contract. That came to light Friday afternoon on the brink of the formal start of the football season Saturday.

When asked why now, on Labor Day weekend and the season opener, Keenum said, “It’s time.”

“It’s time to make a decision,” he said. “We have to give direction to our commissioners. We felt we needed to give them a definitive, ‘Here we are.’ This is where we think college football should be headed regarding the playoffs for our national champion. .’ … I do believe our commissioners, they need this direction from this board, and so I’m glad we were able to give it to them today.”

It may take weeks or months to figure out the possibility of playing a 12-team playoff in 2024 or 2025. In mid-August, the CFP announced that Atlanta would host the national championship game in 2025, followed by Miami in January 2026. While CFP officials laid out the obstacles to such a sudden move — venues, hotels and television contracts — money can loom as a powerful motivator for change.

“We are not naive to understand that there is added value with an expanded final, but I can tell you that you are part of these discussions from the beginning, what motivated the presidents and me was also that we had to have an opportunity for more of teams’ participation in our nation’s national championship tournament,” Keenum said. “Having only four teams, we felt that wasn’t fair to our student-athletes from a participation standpoint. . . . We recognize the additional revenue that will be available, but that was not the driving force behind this ultimate decision. It wasn’t.”

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