Long hesitant to expand the College Football Playoffs from its current format of four teams, the model for all seven years of its existence, the CFP now has swiftly moved towards tripling that field with a dozen-team proposal sent forth Thursday by the Management Committee.
"The four-team format has been very popular,” the committee members said in a joint statement issued this afternoon, “and is a big success. But it's important that we consider the opportunity for more teams and more student-athletes to participate in the playoff.
“After reviewing numerous options, we believe this proposal is the best option to increase participation, enhance the regular season and grow the national excitement of college football."
Per the CFP release, the logistics of this new proposal “is the first step in a process that will not conclude before this fall.”
CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said in the organization's release that the CFP four-team format “will not change this year or next year.”
However, the next two weeks of June – with meetings in Chicago and Dallas (June 17-18, and June 22, respectively) will go a long way in charting the forward path of this first real in-depth move towards expansion.
The new proposal includes the preliminary framework to have the top six-ranked conference champions all receive playoff bids and the next six highest-ranked teams – per the CFP Committee's rankings – to receive invitations into the postseason tournament.
The top four teams all would receive first-round byes. Then, the teams seeded fifth through eighth would host the teams seeded at their opposite point in the bracket; the No. 5 team would host No. 12, No. 6 hosts No. 11, No. 7 hosts No. 10 and No. 8 hosts No. 9.
College football staffers already have started sharing their thoughts on the proposal with FootballScoop.
“It’s only going to keep moving college football forward,” said one current Power 5 staffer who has experience in two of the five power leagues as well as Group of 5 background. “TV Viewership, revenue, and just overall interest. I think it will help G5s and the independents of the world have a legitimate shot at competing for a title.
“And at the end of the day, that’s all they want.”
Two head coaches had similar views on what an expansion would mean for the bottom line.
“Hey, the more teams that get in, the more money there, the more money there is, the better it is for everyone,” said one coach.
Added another head man, “If you're good enough at the end of the year, you're going to get in. It's pretty much been that way. But yeah, the bigger it is, the more money there is for everybody.”
Another source pointed FootballScoop to the ongoing Name, Image and Likeness legislation that is front and center right now in the NCAA, for all student-athletes, but particularly those in high-profile sports such as college football and basketball. Some states across the country have N.I.L. legislation ready to go into effect July 1 that will then allow student-athletes to begin earning money based off of their marketability.
An expanded playoff, this source said, also means extra potential revenue opportunities for all.
Yet another high-profile coach with G5 and P5 experience said he doesn't expect the format – not right now, anyway – to have a great bearing on the final path to college football's top prize.
“A lot of ass beatings (in the opening round),” he said. “End up with same Final Four they do now. (Will) kill the bowl experience. Will keep players from opting out, I guess. (Conference) Championship games won’t matter and two-loss teams will win it all like 'Bama.”
However, the proposal indicates it does work to preserve the bowl element of the postseason picture – at least as it pertains to bowls being intertwined with the CFP.
Per the CFP release: “Under the proposal, the quarterfinals and semifinals would be played in bowl games. The championship game would continue to be at a neutral site, as under the current format.”
During Thursday's virtual meeting held via videoconference, the working group members -- conference commissioners from the Big 12 (Bob Bowlsby), Mountain West (Craig Thompson), Southeastern Conference (Greg Sankey) and Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick – unveiled their unified proposal.
The 11-member management committee will meet in Chicago next week to formally review the proposal.
The timeline for the tournament in the proposed expansion is as follows:
The opening-round games would be played approximately two weeks following conference championship games.
Quarterfinals games will be conducted on New Year's Day or the immediate days around the holiday, if January 1 is a Sunday.
Other key elements to the proposal are:
“The playoff bracket would follow the rankings, with no modifications made to avoid rematches of teams that may have played during the regular-season or are from the same conference;
“The bracket would remain in effect throughout the playoff (i.e., no re-seeding);
“The working group's charge did not include deciding which bowls might be a part of the CFP in the future; however the group did recommend that if traditional bowls host games, teams would be assigned to their traditional bowls for quarterfinal games with priority going to the higher-seeded team;
“All 11 games would be under the CFP umbrella, with the administrative specifications and the process for selecting the six bowls that would rotate as hosts of the quarterfinals and semifinals still to be determined.”