College football playoffs to remain 4 teams until 25 after expansion talks collapse

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What began last summer with the enthusiastic unveiling of a plan for a 12-team college football playoff has come to a halt with winter news that the expansion won’t happen until at least 2026.

The CFP is expected to remain a four-team format through the 2025 season after administrators managing the playoffs failed to agree on an expansion plan before current contracts expired.

“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t put something in place,” American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco told The Associated Press on Friday. “Time was running out. The disappointment also comes from the fact that I think we will get there eventually and I think 12 teams is still the most likely scenario.”

The CFP management committee, made up of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, met via videoconference earlier this week.

Aresco, who released a letter on Monday detailing the barriers to expansion, said the purpose of the call was to determine if anyone’s position had changed.


FILE – The College Football Playoff logo is displayed on the field at AT&T Stadium prior to an NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, January 1, 2021. The College Football Playoff is expected to remain a four-team format until in 2025. season after the administrators who manage the playoffs failed to agree on an expansion plan before the expiration of current contracts. A person involved in the decision told The Associated Press on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022 that the CFP’s management committee, made up of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, met via videoconference earlier this week. .
(AP Photo/Roger Steinman, File)

“Positions hadn’t changed. So at that point I guess the implications were clear,” he said.

Unable to break a deadlock, the commissioners decided to abandon efforts to implement a 12-team format for the 2024 season and recommended staying with the current model to presidents overseeing the playoffs.

The board accepted the recommendation on Thursday and asked the commissioners to continue discussions on a new format that will come into effect for the 2026 season.

“While the outcome did not lead to a recommendation for rapid expansion before the end of the current 12-year contract, the discussions were helpful and informative,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said Friday. “I’m sure they will serve as a helpful guide to the Board and Management Committee as we determine what the playoffs will look like beginning in the 2026-27 season.”

The decision to put the early expansion on hold comes as no surprise. The commissioners left their last in-person meetings in early January deadlocked and unable to produce the unanimous consensus needed to move forward with a 12-team proposal they had been haggling over since June.

The presidents didn’t completely shut the door on early expansion after that meeting, but hope for a deal was clearly fading.

Days after meetings in Indianapolis, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips took the strongest public stance yet against early expansion, saying a new CFP format shouldn’t be a priority. with so much uncertainty in college sports.

On Friday, the commissioners finally signaled that they had given up trying to implement the expansion for the final two years of the CFP’s 12-year agreement with ESPN – a failure that will cost the conferences an estimated $450 million in additional income.

Now they will focus their attention on building a new model beyond the 2026 season when there are no agreements in place.

The road to expansion looked much easier eight months ago when the CFP publicly unveiled the 12-team plan. Even with details still to be ironed out, it was hoped a deal could be done by the fall and a new format could be in place by the 2024 season.

About a month later, it was revealed that the Southeastern Conference was in talks with Texas and Oklahoma to leave the Big 12 and join the mighty league that has produced 12 of the last 17 national champions.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey was part of the four-person subcommittee that worked on the 12-team proposal for more than two years. The plan called for the field to consist of FBS’s six highest-ranked conference champions and six overall teams determined by selection committee rankings.

Relatively new commissioners in the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC, already suspicious of a process that began before they became involved in the PCP, became even more disillusioned after the plan to expansion of the SEC became public.

Since then, the process has stalled, despite more than half a dozen face-to-face meetings with commissioners. All agree the playoffs should expand, but disagree on how and when.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said he favored automatic offers for Power Five league champions, instead of the top six champions, regardless of conference. The commissioners of the non-Power Five conferences, the so-called Five Eyes, are against it – with Aresco the most vocal opponent.

Phillips continued to push for a smaller expansion to eight, if at all.

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said his conference, which has only placed a team in two of the eight playoff series, supports a number of formats involving eight or 12 teams. But he was asking for the Rose Bowl to keep its traditional New Year’s Eve timeslot in a new format and most others weren’t on board.

Meanwhile, the majority of the group stuck with the original 12-team proposal crafted by Sankey, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick.

Sankey said the SEC had already made a concession by agreeing to move from a playoff format in which the conference never failed to place at least one team. But he acknowledged that allowing more teams to participate could boost interest in the sport nationwide.

Sankey clarified: The choices for the rest of the current deal were 12 teams or four.

Despite the potential benefits of expanding early, four it does.


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