CFP Expansion to 12 Teams 'Building Support,' Per Power 5 Athletic Director

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2021

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood hold the trophy after their win against Ohio State in an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Alabama won 52-24. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Several key figures involved in the College Football Playoff have reportedly shown a "surprising willingness" to consider a major expansion from its current four-team format.

"I sense 12 teams is building support," an unnamed Power Five athletic director told Andy Staples and Stewart Mandel of The Athletic.

A college administrator added: "There are two unintended consequences people didn't see when they created the playoff. One, seeing the same teams over and over from one part of the country. It's impairing the product, because there's boredom. ... There's risk to not enough [geographic] spread. Secondly, the brand damage to a conference that doesn't get in it."

The CFP Management Committee announced last week it would review "63 possibilities for change," including an increase of the field size to anywhere from six to 16. Executive director Bill Hancock said it's all part of the process with five years left on the current playoff contract.

"We are entering the eighth year of our 12-year agreement for the College Football Playoff and the management committee is extremely satisfied with the popularity and success of the CFP," Hancock said. "It is wise and good management to review where we stand as we discuss what the future might—'might' for emphasis—look like."

There are plenty of questions to answer, ranging from how to assign automatic and at-large bids in the bracket to whether the changes could come before the end of the current contract, but the "momentum seems to favor expansion," per The Athletic.

The dominance of Alabama and Clemson has been an issue for the CFP. Those two schools have each qualified for the playoff in six of its seven years, while Ohio State and Oklahoma both secured four appearances. So four programs have accounted for 20 of the 28 semifinal berths.

Notre Dame has reached the event twice, with one appearance each for LSU, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan State, Oregon and Washington. No team from outside the Power Five has been selected, and the Pac-12 hasn't sent a team to the CFP since 2016.

An expansion would likely guarantee a berth for all of the Power Five conference champions, and a larger field would create more opportunity for at least one smaller program to make the field. Those type of underdog stories would be a welcome sight in an event dominated by a select few so far.

On the flip side, too large of an expansion could threaten the viability of the other bowl games outside the CFP structure.

"I thought it was interesting they started the discussions this early," a bowl executive told The Athletic. "I don't know how the bowls survive if they expand, to be honest. There will be some that survive, but with a different financial model. We make these big guarantees not knowing which teams we're going to get."

The numerous factors in play is likely why the CFP executives have started to research the various options with plenty of time left on the current deal. One way or another, it sounds like expansion is on the way.