College Football Playoff working group recommends expanding field to 12 teams with six conference champions


Calls for the expansion of the College Football Playoff began as soon as it replaced the Bowl Championship Series ahead of the 2014 season. Seven years later, those calls are on their way to being answered. A College Football Playoff working group Thursday formally recommended expanding the four-team field to 12 teams.

That 12-team model would invite the top six conference champions and six at-large teams into the field. There would be no limit on the number of selections from a conference, and no conference would receive an automatic bid.

In this format, the top four conference champions would get byes in the first round and the other eight teams would compete in first-round games on the campuses of the teams ranked Nos. 5-8. Those games would take place in the two weeks following conference championship weekend.

The quarterfinals would be played at bowl sites (games not specified), taking place on Jan. 1 (or Jan. 2 when New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday) and an adjacent day. It has not yet been determined when semifinals and the national championship would be played, but the working group suggests the semifinals not be played as a doubleheader like presently constituted. 

The playoff bracket would not take regular-season rematches into account when the teams are ranked, and there would not be reseeding in the quarterfinal or semifinal round. 

The working group’s recommendation will be discussed and vetted next week at a previously scheduled CFP Management Committee meeting on June 17-18. The committee is made up of the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. If approved, it would be forwarded to the CFP Board of Managers, which are holding a meeting on June 22. That group is comprised of presidents and chancellors representing the 10 FBS conferences along with Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins.

From there, if the board determines that it wants to move forward with the 12-team model (or another model it prefers), it will “authorize feasibility assessments and potentially discussions with other entities that would allow for implementation of any altered format.” The board would then meet a second time in September to review results of the studies and discuss how to move forward.

“The four-team format has been very popular and is a big success,” the four-person CFP working group said in a statement. “But it’s important that we consider the opportunity for more teams and more student-athletes to participate in the playoff. After reviewing numerous options, we believe this proposal is the best option to increase participation, enhance the regular season and grow the national excitement of college football. … This is a very exciting moment for college football. We think we can capture what student-athletes and fans love about the game and extend it to more people in more places, while enhancing what’s great about the regular season.”

There are five years remaining on the current CFP contract with ESPN. It is unknown when Thursday’s recommendation, if formally approved, would go into effect.

The current four-team model uses a 13-member CFP Selection Committee comprised of athletic directors, former coaches and other prominent industry names. That committee creates a set of top 25 rankings weekly over the latter half of the season that seeds the top four teams. Four different programs have won the CFP since its inception — Ohio State (2014), Alabama (2015, 2017, 2020), Clemson (2016, 2018) and LSU (2019).

The CFP replaced the BCS, which was in existence from 1998-2013. That format limited the meaningful postseason to the top two teams in standings determined by a combination of computers and polls. 

Details of the CFP working group’s recommendation were first reported by Yahoo Sports and confirmed by CBS Sports.





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