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CFP expansion ‘not finished,’ still working toward 12 in 2024

college football playoff

DALLAS — The third in-person meeting of conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff since an August directive from their bosses to expand the postseason format ended without a resolution, but not without optimism.

“There’s a will to try and that will is still there,” Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey said Thursday.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 major college football conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, met for six hours at an airport hotel to work on a plan to triple the number of playoff teams from four to 12 for the 2024 season.

“We’re not finished,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said. “It is true that time is not on our side, but we haven’t given ourselves a deadline. It’s more important to get the work done right.”

Hancock said the management committee plans to meet again soon, likely by video conference, but did not have an exact day.

The task is tricky because the postseason schedule is already set for the 2024 and ’25 seasons based on the current four-team format. The College Football Playoff’s 12-year deal with ESPN expires following the 2025 season.

“We put a calendar on the wall. We want to make sure we’re aware of holidays, NFL game days. Commencements,” Hancock said, ticking off some of the items the CFP needs to consider.

The job now is to add four first-round games to be played in mid-December on the campuses of the better-seeded teams and figure out the best days to play them.

From there the quarterfinals will be played on and around New Year’s Day, with the semifinals about a week after that and the championship at least another week later.

“I’d suggest to you each round has some interesting issues around them,” Mid-American Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “And depending on where you put the pin in one week, it moves where that next set of things goes and then what are you bumping up into that week? Whether it’s access to certain stadiums, NFL games that could be playing, rest periods. So they’re all interconnected.”

American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco said: “Spacing the games is crucial. You can’t have (a team) having way more rest than somebody else.”

Hancock said Atlanta and Miami, which were chosen as host cities for the 2024 and ’25 championship games in a four-team format, have indicated they will be able to accommodate the games on a later date.

This time last year the management committee was in the midst of seven months of haggling over whether to expand and how frustrations growing with every meeting. This year there are no dissenters in the group. Just logistics that need to be sorted out.

“It’s been a fascinating process because every time you turn over one stone you start tripping other issues,” Steinbrecher said. “And it’s more challenging than I would maybe have imagined. But we’re getting there.”

The university presidents who oversee the CFP took control of the process this last summer, approved a 12-team expansion plan that was first unveiled in May 2021 and directed the commissioners to make it happen by 2024, if possible, and 2026 at the latest.

Expanding the playoff early could be worth an additional $450 million in gross revenue from media rights in 2024 and ’25 for the schools that compete in major college football.

“At some point, you have to fish or cut bait to get this done,” Aresco said. “And we kind of have a sense of where we’re going to have to make those decisions. And we’re better informed in terms of the information we got today and a lot of the things we talked about.”