Your dream of a March Madness-esque 64-team postseason college football tournament? Not happening. At least not any time in the immediate future, according to College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock.
Speaking with reporters at the SEC meetings Tuesday, Hancock again indicated any talks of an expanded field were speculative, per ESPN's Brett McMurphy:
Hancock's 12-year timeline is no accident. That's the length of the television deal between the NCAA and ESPN, which announced a deal through the 2025 regular season in 2012.
While there have been numerous calls for an eight-team system and even talk of its inevitability, avoiding expansion initially is a logical decision. No one knows whether the system will be a success or a major failure, and high-profile bowl games remain a revenue giant.
Expansion would only further the disenchantment of fans who have bemoaned the decreased importance of games like the Rose Bowl, whose "Granddaddy of Them All" nickname used to mean a lot more than merely being the oldest.
There are also pretty obvious fiscal reasons. The NCAA and ESPN agreement is not for a "four-game" championship playoff—it's for the entire package. Expansion to eight teams gives the network four extra games without guarantee of the NCAA receiving any extra revenue. A renegotiation is possible, but it would behoove the NCAA to hold off on expansion until they can reap the biggest financial reward.
Publicly, the NCAA has shut down expansion talks at nearly every possible avenue. Hancock himself has discussed the matter twice now this month, saying each time that decision makers are committed to the four-team format.
"We wanted there to be stability in the system," Hancock told reporters at ESPN upfronts. "We wanted people to grow to love it and understand it. And we did 12 years on purpose. In our group of commissioners, I don't sense anybody wanting to go to eight—or our board, the presidents. They're delighted with where we are."
It's also worth highlighting the wording on each of those statements. Hancock does not say the College Football Playoff will never expand. Just that it won't in its current contract.
"Really, it's four for 12 years and then we'll reevaluate," Hancock said.
Given the millions of dollars on the table for television networks and NCAA member schools, expansion only makes sense in the long term. ESPN is paying $470 million a season for three playoff games. Expanding the field to eight adds an entire other round and more than doubles the total amount of games. We don't know what the television market will look like in 2025, but the financial windfall could be huge.
Eight teams is also in no way overbearing and should deter the inevitable snub talk that will probably come as soon as next season. (Though, as the basketball tournament highlights every year, "snubs" will never die regardless of the expansion number.)
Twelve years is a long time, and no matter how many public statements are released, expansion talk isn't going anywhere soon. The thirst for college football (and football in general) has never been higher, nor has the importance of holding a captive live audience.
As far as the NCAA is concerned, that talk can wait. And it is doing its best to make the speculation die down while it's at it.
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