College Football Playoff to remain at 4 teams until 12

The College Football Playoff announced that the field for the first round of the playoffs will remain at four teams until 12. This year, it’s Alabama-Clemson instead of Ohio State-Michigan in order to avoid a potential matchup between two bitter rivals. The playoff committee has not yet named which matchups are being moved around and what is replacing them, but they did say both games would be aired on ESPN2 or ABC as well as live streamed online by Twitch Prime members who get free Amazon Prime access every month.

The “college football playoff” is a college football postseason tournament that determines the national champion of Division I FBS college football. It has been at four teams since its inception in 2014, but will remain at four until 12.

The College Football Playoff will stay at four teams until the conclusion of its current 12-year contract, which ends after the 2025 season, according to CFP executive director Bill Hancock, after months of protracted deliberations and many meetings over expansion.

The eight FBS leagues and Notre Dame have lost nearly $450 million in potential income by sticking with four teams for another four years.

Mike Aresco, the commissioner of the American Athletic Conference, remarked, “I’ve always thought the money was secondary, and this confirms it.” “Obviously, we won’t be doing that. We’re all aware of it. It’s something you’d want to have because you can utilize a lot of it for student-athlete health and well-being and other things, but the thought was that creating a structure that everyone could agree on was the most important thing.”

The ten FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick convened a crucial videoconference on Wednesday afternoon, concluding that they were unable to reach a unanimous agreement on the proposed 12-team model, which was made public on June 10. They recommended to the CFP’s board of management, which is made up of 11 presidents and chancellors who have final say over the playoff, that the present four-team field be maintained for the rest of the current contract.

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On Thursday, the CFP’s board of directors met a videoconference and endorsed the suggestion.

In a short phone chat from China, where he is a volunteer for the Olympics, Hancock said, “I realize, this is difficult, and I know the conferences’ viewpoints.” “I’ve been around long enough to understand that setbacks aren’t always permanent.”

Hancock said that a larger field in the next contract is still a possibility.

“I know they all want to see the CFP increase because I’ve seen the management committee and the board speak about it,” he added. “But for Years 11 and 12, there were just a few things that stood in the way.” “It’s not just one thing, but a number of things.”

To extend the postseason before the present contract ends, the 10 FBS commissioners and Swarbrick would have had to agree to it unanimously. In mid-January, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips indicated publicly that his league was unanimous in its opinion that “expansion is not the proper moment.” The effect of name, image, and likeness laws, the transfer site, and an NCAA governance structure that is undergoing a substantial change, he added, must be considered first.

“We have substantial issues about a planned growth strategy,” Phillips stated at the time, “but we’d be supportive of future expansion once and if these concerns are resolved.” “The membership thinks that we have a duty to examine the CFP and college football as a whole, rather than merely deciding whether or not to add additional teams to a playoff. We have far bigger problems to deal with as a country than whether or not to extend the CFP for another two years.”

Other major roadblocks to expansion included an inability to appease the Pac-12’s relationship with the Rose Bowl, which wants to keep its traditional day and time as well as its media rights; revenue distribution disagreements; and whether the Power 5 conference champions should receive automatic bids to an expanded playoff — a component vehemently supported by the Big Ten but not by a majority of the room.

In a “open letter to college football,” Aresco responded to the ACC and Big Ten earlier this week.

The College Football Playoff will be four teams for another four years, until the conclusion of its current 12-year contract, which ends after the 2025 season. USA TODAY Sports/Kirby Lee

“An enlarged playoff is about improving opportunities regardless of what the future college sports environment will look like,” Aresco wrote in response to the ACC’s big-picture worries about the condition of college athletics. He also noted that “these overarching issues will almost certainly be debated for a long time” and are “unlikely to be resolved in any meaningful way in the next 15 months or so when the CFP decision-makers will have to reconvene either to develop a new playoff plan for 2026 and beyond, continue with the four-team model, or abandon a playoff altogether if an acceptable model cannot be agreed upon.”

Aresco also reacted to the Big Ten’s campaign for automatic qualifiers, claiming that it prefers “privilege for the sake of privilege.” Swarbrick, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey came up with the initial 12-team plan, which contained the six highest-ranked conference champions, as well as the next six highest-ranked teams.

“There are around 1,000 football players from eight teams that might have been part of a national championship, and I believe they would all be hungry for that chance,” Sankey told ESPN. “To develop prospects, we were ready to adapt to new demands. Others were unwilling to change in order to take advantage of such chances. Once a result, we’ll have to reconsider our positions as the process resumes.”

“Somebody else needs to articulate their perspective on it,” Sankey replied when asked what the greatest barrier to growth was. It wasn’t the Southeastern Conference, for sure.

“We were prepared to take part in significant growth. Others, I believe, will have to explain themselves.”

Swarbrick said that he believes the playoff would ultimately grow.

He said, “Absolutely.” “It is going to happen. Everyone in the room expressed a desire to expand throughout our conversations. No one has ever stated, “There will be no growth.” It will grow. I believe we’re around 30 to 45 days beyond the original date. There’s something you need to do if you’re going early. We just couldn’t make it in time.”

“I believe individuals acted against their greater self-interest in the long run,” he remarked. “It’s always a weird situation, and it’s aggravating. Things that got in the way were things that people cared about. It may be difficult to strike a balance between such concerns and the broader advantages. Everyone has their own point of view.”

For the time being, Friday’s decision to keep the playoffs at four teams puts a stop to public discussion over the sport’s future postseason, but the commissioners and Swarbrick still have to figure out what it will look like starting in 2026-27. The commissioners and presidents were supposed to meet in person on March 2 in Dallas to discuss expansion, but that meeting has been canceled.

“Our negotiation window with ESPN opens in October of 2024, so we’ll move backwards from there,” Hancock said, “because we know it’ll take some time to build a framework we’ll want to offer to television.” “We have no idea how long it will take. We haven’t established a date yet. There’s still plenty of time to do things perfect in time for the 26-27 season.”

The CFP has yet to disclose the host cities for the next two seasons of the existing deal, while ESPN has previously reported that Las Vegas and Miami are being considered.

Hancock said, “We will get to it as quickly as we can.”

Los Angeles will host the 2023 national championship game on Jan. 9, followed by Houston on Jan. 8, 2024.

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