Why College Football Playoff Expansion Won't Be Happening Anytime Soon

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterDecember 18, 2014

USA Today

ATLANTA — Proponents of College Football Playoff expansion are like kids on Christmas this holiday season.

They've ripped the wrapping paper off the gift, but before they open the packaging and play with the toy, they've moved on to unwrap the next present.

Here we are in mid-December, with the inaugural national semifinals and College Football Playoff National Championship Game looming, and calls for expanding the four-team playoff have already started.

ESPN.com polled 103 FBS coaches, and 44 percent of them were in favor of the postseason expanding to eight teams. That's not surprising, as bonus money would probably be owed to most or all of those in favor if they earned a playoff spot.

President Barack Obama even chimed in on the side of eight teams on The Herd with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio earlier this month (via AL.com). "[Expanding to four] was the right thing to do," he said, "and I suspect it'll end up being eight teams, and that'll be just about right."

If you're hoping for the playoff to be expanded anytime soon, you're going to be disappointed this holiday season.

It's not happening. Not for this generation of college football players, anyway.

"It's a four-team tournament for 12 years," College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock told B/R. "There hasn't been any discussion in our group about expanding."

College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock
College Football Playoff executive director Bill HancockTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Preservation of the regular season has been a top priority of the College Football Playoff selection committee, and nothing that took place this year has suggested that an expanded playoff and the relevance of the regular season can coexist.

"Regular-season football is the best thing we have going for us in college athletics," Hancock said. "Nobody wants to erode that. There is a tipping point, beyond which the postseason would begin to draw life out of the regular season. Nobody knows what that tipping point is, but it's not four. We know that. It could be eight, and it could be 16."

If the playoff expanded to eight, it's unlikely it would be approved by the conference commissioners unless their league champions were guaranteed automatic bids. That would almost certainly include one spot for the best team out of the "Group of Five," which would be Boise State this season.

Does an 11-2 Boise State team that's ranked 20th deserve a shot at the national title this year? Of course not. What about a Wisconsin team that won the Big Ten in 2012 with an 8-5 record and finished 4-4 in the conference? Nope.

The goal of the College Football Playoff should be to reward excellence, not grant access. An expansion to eight would favor access over excellence and permanently change what the goal should be.

A team that isn't deserving of being in the discussion getting hot and winning the title is far more detrimental to the sport and regular season than a squad that is deserving getting left out every once in a while is.

While the cries for expansion have been loud, they didn't come as a shock to Hancock or anybody associated with the College Football Playoff.

"It's not surprising," he said. "Within a couple of days of making the announcement about the playoff in June of 2012, people were already saying that it has to be more. Here we come out and have given folks the playoff they've been wanting, and they already wanted more."

Jimbo Fisher and his Florida State Seminoles will take on Oregon in one national semifinal.
Jimbo Fisher and his Florida State Seminoles will take on Oregon in one national semifinal.Chuck Burton/Associated Press/Associated Press

Even though the quest for an expanded College Football Playoff will fall on deaf ears for the next decade-plus, the interest the four-team playoff has generated for regular fans and those fans who simply tune in for the biggest games is good for the sport.

"It's a sign that people love the game," Hancock said. "They want more college football. There's just so much passion for it."

Could television dollars and ratings change the perception among the sport's powerbrokers before the end of the 12-year contract? Absolutely. 

The same tipping point in the fight to preserve the regular season would still exist regarding the value of regular-season television contracts, which skyrocketed under the old BCS structure. Scarcity of games in the postseason is a big reason why that interest and the dollars that come along with it exist in the first place.

College football just got a new toy, and it's going to play with it for 12 years.

Enjoy it for a little while before tossing it aside and moving on.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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