College Football Playoff reportedly considering expanding to 12-team model

Mac Jones #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks to pass during the second quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Hard Rock Stadium on Jan. 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/TNS)
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Matt Murschel Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

ORLANDO, Fla. — The College Football Playoff is reportedly considering a move that would drastically change football’s postseason model.

A four-member working group is reportedly recommending expanding the current four-team model to 12 teams. The Playoff management committee, comprised of the 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick, is expected to hear the recommendation next week in Chicago.

The move was first reported by Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger along with The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach.


This would be the first major change to college football’s postseason since the inception of the Playoff format in 2014.

According to SI’s report, the 12 teams would be comprised of the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large teams. The four highest-ranked champions would get a bye while the eight other teams would play first-round games on campus sites.

No conference would receive an automatic bid into the playoff.

The Playoff’s Board of Managers, which is comprised of 11 school presidents and chancellors from the 10 FBS conferences and Notre Dame, would have the final decision on any possible changes to the playoff model. A vote could come as early as June 22, when the group is expected to meet in Dallas.

Momentum for expansion began back in April after the Playoff group revealed that a working group had been considering 63 possibilities for change, including 6-, 8-, 10-, 12- and 16-team options with a variety of scenarios for each.

That working group consisted of Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsy, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick and Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson.

Playoff executive director Bill Hancock warned against reading too much into the group’s findings.

“For the last couple of years, when I’ve been asked about it, I’m very careful to say that my bosses are talking about the future,” Hancock told the Orlando Sentinel at the time. “This really was an extension of that except for the first time we were able to give some color into what they were talking about.

“It’s just analyzing and thinking about the future. That’s all it is.”

Access has been a point of contention for many critics of the current playoff model.

Eleven teams have qualified for the 28 available semifinal spots — with Alabama (6), Clemson (6), Ohio State (4), Oklahoma (4) and Notre Dame (2) making multiple appearances. The concern over a lack of variety among the playoff participants caused the biggest pushback, particularly among fans.

If you apply the newly proposed model to last season; Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame would have received byes with Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Indiana and Coastal Carolina as the remaining eight teams.

One hurdle that still needs to be addressed is money.

ESPN is paying the conferences $7.3 billion over the 12 years for broadcasting rights for the semifinal games and New Year’s Six access bowl games. Any changes to the format would have to be dependent on reworking the television contract to pay the conferences more revenue.

Another issue to consider is player safety.

The proposed 12-team model means there is a possibility for teams to play as many as 17 games in a season. Officials have long been concerned with the wear-and-tear put on players, hoping to avoid a schedule similar to the ones played by the NFL.

This is the eighth year of a 12-year contract for the playoff, which runs through 2025-26.

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