The College Football Playoff Board of Directors voted Friday to expand the stadium to include 12 teams with the goal of implementing greater coordination as soon as possible, sources told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. The unanimous vote is an important first step in advancing the playoff beyond the current four-team format.
The expanded 12-team category, which the board wants to start early in the 2024 season, will feature the conference’s top six ranked champions as automatic qualifiers along with the top six ranking teams post-season.
While the 11-member board of directors — including university presidents and advisors representing each of FBS’s 10 conferences, as well as Notre Dame president John Jenkins — approved the expansion as a concept, it’s just the first step to ensuring the field moves beyond four teams. It is now up to FBS’s 10 commissioners and Notre Dame sporting director Jacques Swarbrick, those who make up the CFP’s management committee, to oversee implementation.
The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday in Irving, Texas.
Among the main topics on the agenda will be when the implementation of the 12-team area will start. It could be set up as soon as 2024 or as late as the 2026 season once the CFP’s 12-year contract with ESPN expires.
A subcommittee of the CFP composed of FBS commissioners who developed this 12-team category was well received when it was first introduced in June 2021. After this presentation and before the expansion was approved, the reorganization rocked college sports as Texas and Oklahoma announced plans to leave 12 Big for the SEC.
With Securities and Exchange Commission Commissioner Greg Sankey and then-Big 12 Commissioner Bob Paulsby both members of the CFP subcommittee, ranks have shaken with other conference commissioners halting expansion talks while reassessing their championship venues in the sport.
First came an alliance between the ACC, the Big Ten and the Pac-12, with conferences agreeing to vote as a bloc on major issues. This alliance stood in the way of expansion on January 10 with a tally of 8-3 to support the move to a larger field; A unanimous vote is required to pass the expansion. In February 2022, with the Board largely anticipating a rubber stamp in the previous vote, expansion was considered a pending topic for the foreseeable future.
The Big Ten’s pass to the USC and UCLA from the Pac-12 last season, a continuation of this round of reorganization, brought a clear end to that short-lived alliance. It may have opened the door to revitalizing talks since the big ACC, 12 and Pac-12 aren’t going to bring media rights revenue to the level of the Big Ten and SEC in the near future.
CFP CEO Bill Hancock previously stated that the playoffs would not expand before the end of its current contract, which is set to expire in 2025. In launching the National Championship game sites until the 2025 season just weeks before — Atlanta will host after the 2024 season, South Florida in The following year – the CFP apparently confirmed that the format change would not happen earlier.
If CFP aims to expand before the end of its ESPN contract, it faces the hurdle of having to find sufficient gaming sites (perhaps on campus for early-round games) and enact the appropriate logistics (hotel rooms, training facilities, etc.) short period of time. While these are still significant hurdles, several sources have told Dodd that they could all be eliminated 28 months in advance until a possible extended playoff in 2024.
“My general response is, if people are willing [to do it]“Anything can happen,” said Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson, one of the four main members of that subcommittee along with Sankey, Pulsby and Swarbrick.
Industry sources said to Dowd, the 12-team playoff grossed $1.2 billion a year, up from the current $600 million CFPs make from ESPN. By not activating the expansion before the 2026 season, CFP will be leaving big money on the table. ESPN will retain the rights to any additional games to CFP during the last two years of the 12-year deal.
There is still widespread support for CFP media rights to come out to many bidders once the ESPN contract expires. The Big Ten recently signed a $1.2 billion annual deal with CBS, Fox, and NBC to broadcast their games.
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