The Faculty Soccer Playoff will think about a proposal to increase to the 12-team format
The College Football Playoffs Management Committee will consider expanding the current four-team field to a 12-team format when it meets in Chicago next week, marking the first step in yet another historic change for the sport’s postseason.
The proposal does not contain any guarantees for conference winners. Instead, it requires that the group include the six top-ranked conference champions as well as the six top-ranked other teams determined by the CFP’s selection committee. There would be no limit to the number of participants in a conference and no league would automatically qualify.
“This proposal, at its core, was made to allow more players and more schools to participate,” said CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock. “In short, that is the working group’s message.”
The proposal, drawn up by a subcommittee made up of Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, Notre Dame Sporting Director Jack Swarbrick, and Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson, became the whole Thursday morning Group of FBS commissioners presented.
Not only did Bowlsby offer a larger field the opportunity to increase attendance, it was also open about another issue that considered willingness to expand: the sting of being excluded.
“We probably underestimated – ‘we’ are the A5 commissioners – how difficult it was to look at a four-team playoff from the outside,” said Bowlsby. “I think that was a factor. There was certainly a lot of dismay for those of us who got left out at times, so I think that was an element of it.”
The 10 FBS commissioners and Swarbrick will have to agree on a format at their meeting next Thursday and Friday to discuss the topic personally for the first time since before the coronavirus pandemic. While the four members of the working group have researched the possibilities over the past two years to ultimately come to the conclusion that 12 teams offer the best chance, it is still possible that the seven other members of their group support a different format or the Disagree with recommendation.
When asked what obstacles might prevent commissioners from agreeing on the 12-team proposal next week, American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco told ESPN that he believes “there is a really good chance there is Achieving consensus ”.
“I think it’s hard to attack,” said Aresco. “I think it’s a well thought out plan. I really like the equalization concept that all FBS have a chance. … I don’t think it has any flaws or weaknesses in that sense.”
According to the proposal for a 12-team format, the four top-ranked Conference Champions would be seeded 1-4 and receive a bye for the first round. Teams 5-12 would play against each other in the first round on the home field of the higher-ranking team. The quarter-finals and semi-finals would be played in bowl games and the national championship game would remain in a neutral location.
“The practical effect of this will be that there will be 25 or 30 teams four or five weeks before the start of the season that have a legitimate claim and a practical opportunity to participate,” said Bowlsby. “That should make for an exceptionally good October and November.”
The first round games would take place on campus sometime in the two weeks following the conference championship games. The quarter-finals would be played on January 1st – or January 2nd if New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday – and an adjacent day.
This model allows for the possibility of teams competing in 17 games, but Swarbrick said it was “very unlikely”. He pointed out that to do this, a team ranked 5-12 would have to play in a conference championship game, qualify for a game in the first round, and then play the table.
“The way to get to 17 in this model is not impossible,” said Swarbrick, “but there are a lot of things built in that make it very unlikely.”
The four members of the working group were made available to reporters on a Thursday afternoon conference call and agreed that many of the same questions asked by reporters would be asked by their colleagues in Chicago the next weekend.
One of the issues they pushed for was the lack of home advantage beyond the opening round – if the top four conference champions were given bye tickets. As long as the playoff is under the current contract, it must honor its agreements with the New Year’s Six Bowls, unless all parties to those contracts agree to change them.
The working group has not considered which bowls may be part of the CFP in the future, but has recommended that when “traditional bowls” host games, teams for quarter-finals be assigned to their traditional bowls, with priority given to the higher-seeded team.
“I would add that this model, when paired with the bowls, gives college football a really strong opportunity to reassert New Years Eve and New Years ownership,” said Swarbrick. “This is such an important part of the college football tradition and it allows us to affirm that.”
“We made a conscious choice to honor that,” said Bowlsby.
While the dates of the semi-finals and championship game are not set, the report states that the semi-finals are unlikely to be played as a double game. The CFP series would follow the selection committee ranking, with no changes, to avoid return legs from teams that may have played during the regular season or are from the same conference.
One of the other quirks of the proposed model is that Notre Dame and other independents cannot get a bye because they have no way of winning a conference championship. When asked about it on Thursday, Swarbrick said dryly: “I look forward to never hearing about us playing one game less or not having a conference championship again.”
When the group agrees on a model, they will present the plan to the eleven presidents and chancellors who make up the CFP’s board of directors at a meeting in Dallas on June 22nd. If the board approves the plan, the commissioners and Swarbrick will be down in the summer to figure out how to go about it – and when. Another meeting is planned for September, changes to the format would ultimately be made by the Presidents and Chancellors.
“It’s the first step in a long process that won’t end until September,” said Hancock.
Hancock has said the playoffs won’t be extended this year or next. The current 12-year contract runs for the 2025/26 season. The working group did not include possible implementation dates in its recommendation.
“The timing of the implementation will be determined later by the presidents,” said Hancock. “There are existing contracts for the 12 year period that need to be reviewed. The board of directors must approve this and the presidents must approve further research.”