College Football's 'Influential Voices' Ready to Discuss 8-Team Playoff Format

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2018

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks during NCAA college football Big 12 media days in Frisco, Texas, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Cooper Neill)
Cooper Neill/Associated Press

Several "influential voices in college football" are reportedly prepared to discuss increasing the number of College Football Playoff teams from four to eight.

Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic reported Wednesday that CFP expansion has received a "groundswell of support" with hopes the change can happen before the current contract with ESPN, the event's broadcast partner, expires in 2026.

"It's an appropriate thing to begin thinking about," Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Auerbach.

Although the College Football Playoff has received less criticism than its predecessor, the Bowl Championship Series, it's still created issues. There isn't enough space for a representative from each of the Power Five conferences, and it has left virtually no path to a championship for schools from smaller conferences.

UCF has learned the latter point the hard way the past few years. The Knights have completed two consecutive undefeated regular seasons in the American Athletic Conference but were never serious players in the final CFP conversations because of concerns about their mediocre strength of schedule.

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told Auerbach expansion is "inevitable" and said increasing the number of playoff teams would "serve more people."

"I don't know whether we're serving all of our people now, when you have some leagues—our league (the Big Ten) as an example," he said. "Two years in a row, we don't have anyone represented. The Big 12's been the same way. The Pac-12's been the same way."

However, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was much less enthusiastic, per Stadium's Brett McMurphy:

Brett McMurphy @Brett_McMurphy

SEC’s statement on push for 8-team playoff. As an SEC AD told me today: “less than zero” percent chance SEC gives up league title game https://t.co/jXYohz7vUz

An eight-team CFP could include automatic bids for the Power Five conference champions, as well as three at-large bids, with one of those potentially guaranteed to a Group of Five school like UCF.

West Virginia president E. Gordon Gee told The Athletic he doesn't think college football should wait for the ESPN contract to expire before making alterations to the system.

"I also want to be very clear: I think that there's arrogance of us not taking a look at someone like the University of Central Florida, just saying, 'Well, they're not worthy of it,'" Gee said. "Maybe they are worthy of it based upon a number of considerations that need to be taken into account."

Now the question is how soon an eight-team format could become reality.

Auerbach noted the CFP's board of managers and its management committee are scheduled to meet Jan. 7, the morning of this season's national championship game. It's possible one of those groups makes a recommendation that starts the process of expansion.

The budding support suggests the change could happen in the near future.


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