By Natalie Downey
Changes involving the College Football Playoff (CFP) have been a popular topic during the offseason. It was recently revealed that there have been discussions about including 12 teams in the next CFP, instead of the usual 4.
News of this came out after a meeting in April, but we likely won’t hear any more about it until after the meetings on July 17 and 18. Among those in attendance at this meeting will be SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick.
After this, the CFP board of managers will meet to examine what is put forward. The board consists of 11 presidents and chancellors from the 10 conferences and Notre Dame. At this meeting, they are likely to determine the potential shape, but not the final details, of the playoff’s future.
So why is having 12 teams in the playoff better than 4? In the current four-team playoff, all teams are at-large. In a majority of 8 team models that have been projected, there’d likely be either 5 or 6 automatic bids. This would mean a decrease in at-large bids. For the 12-team model, automatic bids would go to the winners of the 5 power conferences, plus 1 of the group of 5 champions. The other 6 spots would then be at-large bids. This will give automatic bids to some of the “have-nots” and more potential spots for the more powerful leagues.
It is unsure how bowl games will play into all of this, but it has been said that they are still going to try to keep them as part of the system. Television will also have to be much bigger than it is currently, which reportedly averages a $470 million annual payout. The current deal is 7 years into a 12-year contract with ESPN, which presumably gives it exclusive negotiating rights in the near future. How TV will work with this expansion is still a big unknown.
As with anything, there are people who are skeptical of the change. ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips thinks it is “premature” to assume the playoff will expand. He is not wrong to question it either. There are a lot of things that must happen in order for it to go through. There are 11 signatories on the CFP contract, and everyone has to agree. Reaching unanimity with that many people with stakes in the game is difficult.
With the limited information that is out right now, all we can do is wait. More information is likely to be released after the two meetings happening in July. This expansion has the potential to completely change the College Football Playoff as we know it, for better or for worse.