College Football Playoff hits pause on expansion, field to remain at four through 2025 season
And after all that, the College Football Playoff will remain at four teams.
The CFP announced Friday that it’ll remain with the current four-team model through the end of the current 12-year contract with ESPN. That contract is up after the 2025 season, meaning the CFP and its members won’t be looking to expand the Playoff until 2026 at the earliest.
“The Board of Managers has accepted a recommendation from the Management Committee to continue the current four-team playoff for the next four years, as called for in the CFP’s original 12-year play,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. “At the same time, the Board expects the Management Committee to continue its discussions of a new format that would go into effect for the 2026-27 season.
“Even though the outcome did not lead to a recommendation for an early expansion before the end of the current 12-year contract, the discussions have been helpful and informative. I am sure they will serve as a useful guide for the Board of Managers and for the Management Committee as we determine what the Playoff will look like beginning in the 2026-27 season.”
According to multiple reports, the commissioners and presidents serving in CFP committees were scheduled to meet in-person in Dallas, Texas, in early March, but that meeting has been called off given the stalemate on which model is best moving forward.
In January, around the time of the CFP National Championship game, SI’s Ross Dellenger reported at least two and possibly three commissioners opposed the recommended model that the CFP Management Committee presented to the Board of Managers, which is the CFP’s executive board including representation from the 10 FBS conferences and Notre Dame.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Dellenger that those commissioners opposing the expansion proposal were “entrenched” in their beliefs and that the group made up zero ground during their meetings. In December, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips and Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren expressed public opposition to expansion.
Phillips has since stated he believes an eight-team model would be better than 12 and that expansion should wait until a full review of college football’s practices and protocols can take place.
Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff called the current system “broken” during a radio interview in early January. A few days later, the Pac-12 issued a statement saying it would back any proposal for an expanded Playoff.
“The Pac-12 is strongly in favor of CFP expansion,” the conference said in a statement on Jan. 10, “and we support all of the six most-discussed expansion models that would allow for expansion to occur in time for the final two years of the current CFP agreement. … The Pac-12 will continue to take a solution-oriented and flexible approach to allow for CFP expansion to occur as soon as possible.”
The six models referenced are:
- The 12 highest-ranked teams
- Automatic qualifications (AQs) for the six highest-rated conference champions and six at-large bids (“6+6”) (the original proposal made by the CFP sub-committee in June of 2021)
- AQs for the P5 champions and one AQ for the highest-ranked Group of Five champion, with six at-large bids (“5+1+6”)
- Qualification for the eight highest-ranked teams
- AQs for the six highest-ranked conference champs and two at-large bids (“6+2”)
- AQs for the P5 champs, one AQ for the highest-ranked Group of Five champ, with two at-large bids (“5+1+2”)
In order to expand the field, there needs to be unanimous agreement from all 11 members of the CFP Board. It seems there’s still a ways to go on that front.