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Clemson's Swinney strongly opposes Playoffs expansion, says players also lack support

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, his team in the College Football Playoffs the past six seasons in a row, said both he and his players do not favor the sport's proposal to expand the field to a dozen teams.
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Dabo Swinney said he has known this eventuality was coming.

Nonetheless, Clemson's football coach – in his first in-person press conference since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020 – on Tuesday doubled-down on his stance against an expanded College Football Playoffs.

“I knew when it went to four, it was going to become all about the playoff,” said Swinney, whose Tigers have appeared in the last six four-team CFPs and won a pair of national titles. “When it goes to 12, it's going to become even more about the playoff. But, it's inevitable.”

Swinney insisted his anti-expansion platform isn't rooted in any concern about his Tigers' ability to maintain their de facto reservations in college football's postseason tournament; rather, Swinney said his Clemson players indicated a strong preference not to add games to their schedule.

“Our team isn't for it,” Swinney said. “They don't want to play more games.

“And to be honest with you, I don't know if there's 12 teams good enough (to compete in the CFP). So, you're going to play more games just to play more games. And I think the more you expand it, the less important the season becomes and the more you become the NFL.”

Swinney has a point, on one hand. His Clemson program has played in the title game in four of the seven years that the CFP has served as the sport's crowning tournament.

Similarly, reigning national champion Alabama has made the field in six of the seven CFPs, won three crowns during that span and also twice finished as runner-up.

Swinney also said he believes an expanded playoff field could lead to questions of availability for star players. He even cited his own former quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 pick in this spring's NFL Draft.

“(IT becomes), All right, you're in the playoffs: Why play Trevor this game if you're already in,” Swinney asked. “All of a sudden you're not in the top 12 and kids just aren't playing.”

Multiple other college coaches told FootballScoop within the past 10 days that they've detected some hesitancy, if not pushback, from players within their programs as it pertained to a potentially expanded field of participants. They specifically cited, like Swinney, a desire from players to avoid an expanded schedule.

The CFP working committee has said no such expansion could occur prior to the 2023 season.

Still, both Notre Dame A.D. Jack Swarbrick and Mid-American Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said within the past week that they found expansion of the Playoffs critical for the sport.

“Most college sports, you have a 21 to 24-percent chance of being in the postseason. In football (at the Football Bowls Subdivision level), you've got a 3-percent chance [of making the current, four-team playoffs),” Swarbrick said. “And going to a bowl game is not substitute for that. You want to try and play for a championship. So expanding, finding a way to expand that opportunity, became very important to us.

“Closely related to that was recognizing the obligation to strengthen the game, not just your part of the game,” Swarbrick said of the CFP working group's approach. “(It's a) very deliberate choice to say the six highest-ranked conference champions, not the Power 5 conference champions plus one was really about that. And about saying to all the conferences, you've got something to play for.”

Added Steinbrecher Tuesday as he opened MAC football media days, “I fully support the effort to expand the College Football Playoff to 12 teams. While we have not taken a vote of our membership, I have had conversations with our presidents, coaches and A.D.s and a group of football players. To date, the feedback has been positive. A four-team playoff is better than two and a 12-team playoff will be better than four. It will be more inclusive, fairer and bring increased importance and relevancy to the regular season and conference championship games.”