As the coronavirus pandemic takes a gas-powered machete to athletics department budgets across the country -- and, indeed, the global economy -- one thought that has circulated in the public conversation is to expand the College Football Playoff, and preferably as soon as possible.
The thinking is easy to see: Playoff games are worth a lot of money -- the three CFP games are worth around $470 million annually -- and the fastest way to halt a bleeding budget is to make more money.
“I think we were moving in that direction anyway,” a conference commissioner told Yahoo. “Could it be accelerated by something like this? It’s a good point. Revenue is going to be an issue. It’s not on the front burner yet, but it’s a legitimate question.”
However, on Tuesday College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock dumped a bucket of cold water on any expansion talk.
"My bosses are happy with the CFP," Hancock told ESPN, "but they're talking and they will continue to talk."
Hancock works for the 10 FBS commissioners plus Notre Dame, and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick went on record with CBS last week against the idea.
"It's probably the worst time in recent memory to have a conversation about anything [related to that]," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said. "That's part of the reality we all face."
One reason the timing could be bad to go to the negotiating table right now: ESPN operates in the same economy as the rest of us, and the Worldwide Leader may not be keen to plop down another $400 million or so to air four additional games that, by their very nature, are half as enthralling as CFP semifinal games.
As a counterpoint, that same economy didn't stop the NFL from further diluting its playoff bracket, and CFP quarterfinals would be a heckuva way for Apple TV+ or one of its competitors to splash its way into live sports programming.
To be clear, Hancock's primary duties is to say what the commissioners tell him to say, and as such he will literally be the last person on earth to admit the Playoff is expanding. But in the here and now, don't count on an expanded Playoff to solve your school's budget issues.