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Ohio State AD Gene Smith Says 'You Can't Ignore' Talk of 16-Team CFP

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJuly 26, 2022

Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

There has apparently been plenty of chatter about the four-team College Football Playoff format eventually quadrupling in size.

"Sixteen just seems to be out there," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said Tuesday, per Pete Thamel of ESPN. "You can't ignore it."

While Smith, whom Thamel called "the most powerful athletic director in the Big Ten," clarified that there have not been formal discussions about increasing the field to 16, he said the topic has come up multiple times.

Whether the CFP would eventually expand has seemingly been a major discussion point since it was first put in place for the 2014 season.

Powerhouse programs such as Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia and Oklahoma have been dominant presences throughout the event's history, and a Group of Five team finally made the field just last season when Cincinnati did so from the American Athletic Conference.

Yet it may remain a discussion point for the foreseeable future since the current format is in place until the 2026 season and a potential expansion to a 12-team field never gathered much momentum largely because the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC voted against it.

Smith isn't the only voice inside the Big Ten who brought up 16 teams, with former Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez saying: "I can live with 12, I can live with 16, I just think we need to expand. I think access is important. I can live with 16."

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren didn't specifically mention 16 teams, but he did say he was "100 percent supportive" of expanding.

That Smith brought up chatter about 16 teams is all the more notable because Ohio State president Kristina M. Johnson is on the CFP's Board of Managers. It is reasonable to think she and Smith have discussed expansion a number of times, especially since the Buckeyes are one of the teams that are typically in the middle of the playoff race late into the season.

Expanding the field to any number will open up debate about whether conference champions should be given automatic bids and how many at-large teams will qualify.

Having more at-large teams figures to benefit the Big Ten and SEC moving forward, with the former set to add USC and UCLA to the fold in 2024 and the latter bringing in Oklahoma and Texas starting in 2025.

The two conferences seem to be further separating themselves from the others in terms of the sheer number of historical football brands and presumed contenders, and it would be a surprise if a 16-team field didn't feature a number of programs from each league.

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