There’s an assumption that the College Football Playoff is guaranteed to move from its 4-team format to eight because, well, the only thing rich people like more than money is more money, and there’s certainly money to be made in expanding the Playoff. Every sport has expanded its playoff format at least once, including college football. The BCS began as a 4-bowl rotation in the 1998 season, and by 2006 the system added a standalone championship game that rotated among the four original bowl sites.
But the Playoff Expansion Crowd assumes one thing that shouldn’t be assumed: Someone — or, really, a lot of someones — has to actually make the change happen, and right now there’s zero desire for such a change.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey spoke at an Associated Press Sports Editors gathering in Birmingham on Monday and affirmed his support for the 4-team format.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey on if he favors expanding the College Football Playoff:
"No. I think four works. … We will be attentive to conversations. But fundamentally that's my statement."
— Seth Emerson (@SethWEmerson) April 22, 2019
SEC commish Greg Sankey wants the College Football Playoff to stay at four teams. "Four works. It has worked, does work and will continue to work."
— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) April 22, 2019
Of course, Sankey would say that. His conference is the only one to go 6-for-5 in placing teams in the field over the Playoff’s first half-decade of existence.
Setting aside the unlikelihood of expansion without support of the SEC, let’s see how Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, whose league is 2-for-5 and has missed the field the past two seasons, feels.
“Most importantly the selection committee feels like the protocol works really well for them,” Scott told USA Today. “That’s one of the things we’re (evaluating). … Are there ambiguities around the data that are problematic, is there confusion, does the committee want more direction? I think (the Playoff’s selection criteria) has really stood the test of time very nicely.
“I mean, by design if you’ve got a committee of 13 highly competent, skilled people who come at things from different vantage points, it is a human decision and we are leaving them latitude. It was designed believing every year could be a little different and you need to leave appropriate latitude for (the committee) to make judgment calls.”
Commissioners work at the behest of their conferences’ presidents, so perhaps they feel differently. Do they?
“After playing a rugged season, the last thing these great student athletes need is to play yet another football game,” South Carolina president Harris Pastides told 247Sports in March following a vote of SEC presidents in support of the 4-team format. “That is something I’m confident all five power conferences will be supportive of.”
Pastides cuts at the core issue of playoff expansion: How do you make it work? Either you push the season even further into January, which no one wants, or you begin the Playoff in the middle of December, which cuts into awards season, the early signing period, final exams, and the post-regular season mini-breather that has been built into college football’s schedule for as long as the sport’s been around.
An 8-team playoff would also require the championship teams to play a 16-game season — which, again, no one wants — or for conferences to eliminate their own championship games, which no one wants.
Other than all that, though, an 8-team playoff is right around the corner.