College football playoffs will move to 12-team format

The College Football Playoff board voted unanimously on Friday to expand the CFP to 12 teams in 2026, but encourages the athletic commissioners to try to implement it as early as 2024.

In what has been described as ‘a historic day for college football’, the board’s 11 presidents and chancellors endorsed the original 12-team model, which was first released to the public last summer and includes all six top-ranked conference champions and six major teams. , the council announced.

“There are still quite a few issues to resolve – some very obvious logistical issues need to be resolved – but we hope we can get [the commissioners] to act as quickly as possible,” said Mississippi State President Mark Keenum, Chairman of the CFP Board of Directors. “We have asked our commissioners, the management committee, to explore the possibility of us starting the 12-team playoff format before the 2026 season, in 2024 or 2025.”

The 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick will meet next Thursday in Irving, Texas to begin discussions about possibly implementing the format as early as 2024.

Team rankings will continue to be determined by the CFP Selection Committee, which will remain largely unchanged.

The four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded one through four, with each receiving a first-round bye. Teams ranked 5-12 will face off in the first round on the second or third weekend of December. The quarter-finals and semi-finals will be played in bowl matches on a rotating basis, and the championship game will be played at a neutral site, as in the current four-team format.

“This is an exciting day for the future of college football,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “As originally proposed, the 12-team playoffs create more access for teams and conferences across the country to participate in the college football championship event. There is work to be done to make this format a reality, but I’m glad we’re all moving in the same direction with a common goal.”

The 12-team model was originally set up by Sankey, Swarbrick, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson and former Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. It launched publicly in June 2021 but got bogged down in conference politics. In February, the CFP announced that they would not extend the current contract, which expires after the 2025 season.

The main heist had been specific objections from the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12. But after the love at first sight of realignment this summer with USC and UCLA committing to the Big Ten and that conference signing a historic TV deal, those leagues’ problems have started to fade.

“The Pac-12 strongly supports the expansion of the PSC and welcomes the decision of the PSC Board of Directors,” the Pac-12 said in a statement Friday. “Expanding the CFP will provide increased access and excitement and is the right thing for our student-athletes and our fans. We look forward to working with our fellow conferences to finalize important elements of an expanded CFP to launch it.” as soon as possible.”

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement that the CFP expansion “is great for college football and great for the Big Ten conference.” He added that “although there is still work to do, we are proud of what has been achieved. We look forward to continuing to work with our colleagues to update the 12-team format.”

Asked specifically about these three conferences now voting for expansion, Keenum said it’s about these leagues and all others “doing their due diligence” and speaking with every member.

“They’ve spent time, they’ve put in effort to get to this point,” Keenum said. “And so I think it’s just a cumulative effort on the part of all these people to get to the point where they feel – not just these particular lectures, but all the lectures that are on the board – have followed the same process. “

After a year of indecision and mistrust between commissioners that boiled over and at times played publicly, the chairs have taken control of the decision-making process in recent weeks. The presidents and chancellors have ultimate authority over the playoffs, but usually the commissioners present a plan to them for approval.

Two weeks ago, the CFP board held an unannounced call, discussing the expansion and the possibility of a 12-team playoff starting in the middle of the current contract structure. This manifested itself on Friday afternoon on the eve of the official start of the football season on Saturday.

When asked why now, on the Friday of Labor Day weekend and the season opener, Keenum replied, “It’s about time.”

“It’s time to make a decision,” he said. “We have to give direction to our commissioners. We felt we had to give them a definitive answer: ‘This is where we are. This is where we believe college football needs to be headed when it comes to the playoffs for our national champion. .’ … I believe our commissioners need that direction from this board, so I’m glad we were able to give it to them today.”

It could take weeks or months to determine the possibility of playing a 12-team playoff in 2024 or 2025. In mid-August, the CFP announced that Atlanta will host the national championship game in 2025, followed by Miami in January 2026. While the CFP officials laid out the obstacles to such a sudden decision – locations, hotels and TV contracts – money can be a powerful force for change.

“We are not naïve to understand that there is added value in having expanded playoffs, but I can tell you that I was involved in these discussions from the beginning, which motivated the presidents and me too, c ‘is that we needed to have the opportunity for more team participation in our country’s national championship tournament,” Keenum said. “Having only four teams, we felt it was not fair to our students. -athletes from the point of view of participation. … We recognize the additional revenue that will be available, but that was not the driving force behind this ultimate decision. It was not the case.”

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