The College Football Playoff will stay at four teams through the 2025 season … maybe. Here’s what’s happening and what you need to know.
College Football Playoff expansion off until at least 2025 … maybe.
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2022 College Football Schedules: All 131 TeamsWho wins and who loses if CFP isn’t expanded?
Welcome to the working definition of not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time.
The College Football Playoff will stay at four teams through the 2025 season – the next four years – after the conference commissioners and Notre Dame couldn’t reach an agreement.
Here’s what’s going on.
First, here’s what the deal was supposed to be
Last summer, a few conference commissioners – Greg Sankey (SEC), Bob Bowlsby (Big 12), Craig Thompson (Mountain West), and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick – put together a proposal for a 12-team expanded playoff.
The idea was for the top six conference champions regardless of conference to automatically get in, and the other six spots would go to the six highest-ranked teams remaining from the College Football Playoff rankings.
It was a relatively square deal.
It assured that a few Group of Five conferences – the American Athletic, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt – would be right in the mix with at least one guaranteed a spot, and it accounted for the big Power Five leagues – ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC – to potentially get more teams in depending on how the seasons flowed.
There were details to iron out about how and where this would all work – like, would it be within the bowl system or would the first round be on the campus of the higher-seeded team? – but those were workable.
But get 12 masters of the universe together and you’ll get 12 totally different opinions.
Who wins and who loses if CFP isn’t expanded?
What’s the problem?
Most of the main concerns aren’t much of a barrier, but overall, it’s not entirely certain why this isn’t quite working other than that the ACC appears to be freaking out a bit.
Commissioner Jim Phillips and the ACC want to do some roll slowing, claiming that this isn’t quite the time for more upheaval in the college athletics world considering all that’s going on with several other seismic changes, but that all seems a tad soft.
One sticking point is the Rose Bowl – the Pac-12 and Big Ten still want their historic ties to the bowl game – and another problem is how this would all work while still maintaining a healthy bowl system, but to reiterate, those are just details that could easily be ironed out if everyone really did want this to happen.
That’s not why the college athletic world is throwing away the opportunity at hundreds of millions of dollars.
Expansion. Without saying it out loud, that’s the problem here, not NIL, the transfer portal, or coaching salaries.
The ACC isn’t in on the expansion fun after totally dropping the ball and not adding UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston when it had the chance. The last thing it wants to do is agree to a bigger College Football Playoff when the landscape could change even more in three years since the conference is ripe for the picking.
The SEC is about to get whole lot bigger and more important with Texas and Oklahoma joining the mix in 2024, if not earlier. There’s no secret that the SEC is on a world domination bender and could at any time get a whole lot more important than it already is.
Don’t think the SEC is stopping its dreams with just Texas and Oklahoma. If it can get those two, everyone is on the table. Geographically, that means the ACC.
Meanwhile, the Big Ten has remained eerily quiet during the expansion moves.
It takes a certain level of school in terms of size, market, prestige, and research for the Big Ten to be interested. It grabbed Maryland away from the ACC in 2014, and in the conference’s perfect world, it would somehow find a way to add perfect-fit North Carolina.
Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, NC State, Syracuse, Virginia, and Virginia Tech all fit into the Big Ten’s Tier 1 Research requirement – as does Notre Dame – and several of those schools would be easy and smart fits for the SEC, too.
Here’s the larger problem for the College Football Playoff expansion. How does all the revenue get distributed?
Fine, so six conference champions get in. What about those other six schools in a 12-team format?
Assume at least two of those spots will go to the SEC every year – especially with Texas and Oklahoma – and assume the Big Ten gets an extra team, and assume that it’s really more like three SEC teams and two extra Big Ten teams, and …
What if the ACC only gets one team in? It’s not in a position right now as a conference to assume it can get anyone but its own champion in – at least until a Florida State or Miami or North Carolina can rise back up.
So who gets all the money? As it is now, the ACC has its bowl deals and is on par with the SEC and Big Ten – sort of. An expanded College Football Playoff screws up the ACC’s possible power.
NEXT: Who wins and loses if the College Football Playoff isn’t expanded? What will happen?Who wins if the College Football Playoff isn’t expanded?
– The Bowls. Maybe. It would be a bigger deal if the College Football Playoff expanded into the bowl system, but now the bowls maintain their footprint in December and early January while the CFP is its own thing.
– Keepers of the regular season flame. I’d argue that an expanded College Football Playoff makes the regular season even stronger and more interesting
12 teams doesn’t screw things up into something like March Madness or the pro leagues with half the teams getting in – but for those who love the regular season of college football as the be-all-end-all, this keeps that.
– Again, the ACC. The Pac-12 wants in on the expansion, and the Group of Five conferences really want to be in, but the ACC is in a bit of a no-man’s land here revenue-wise with 12 teams.
– The Big 12 … for now. While it still has Texas and Oklahoma, it still has the upside and power to have one powerhouse – at least from a national standpoint – to make a push for a four-team playoff. Once they’re gone, an Oklahoma State or Iowa State or UCF or Cincinnati could get in, but that might be it.
Who loses if the College Football Playoff isn’t expanded?
– Athletic departments. That’s about a half billion dollars the conference commissioners are leaving on the table … for now.
– The non-traditional powerhouses. Here’s the fun of a 12-team playoff – Pitt is in last year. So is Utah. So is Baylor. Instead of the stupid “should Cincinnati be in?” debate, it would be in along with other worthy teams.
In 2020, Cincinnati AND Coastal Carolina would’ve been in. Indiana would’ve been in, and so would Iowa State. This year, Oklahoma State and Ole Miss would’ve made it.
– ESPN. An expanded College Football Playoff would up the revenue by about a gajillion over the current cash machine that is the bowl season. – The fans. 12 teams would be FUN.
Yeah, the tournament itself might not be all that great with a slew of early blowouts, but that’s not the point. More teams equal more fan bases mean more interest. It’s not that a Cincinnati or a Baylor or a Pitt could actually win the whole thing, but they would’ve wanted the chance.
– The mid-range bowls. As the last two years showed, they’re disposable. If they don’t go, they don’t go – no big whoop. If the star NFL prospects opt-out and coaches bolt for other gigs, then that’s the deal and the bowls are bad. Make the mid-tier non-New Year’s Six bowls part of the playoff, and the top players stick around.
However, remember …
These things can and will change in a snap
There was NO WAY we were getting a true college football national championship – and then the BCS Championship was created.
There was NO WAY college football would ever have a playoff – there once was a press release claiming that a playoff would hurt the bowls, which would mean sick kids and the troops would lose. And then the College Football Playoff was created.
Yeah, this whole expansion thing has been tabled for a few years, but the CFP isn’t locked into sites a few year from now, and this can all but turned on a dime.
Oh, we’ll get our College Football Playoff expansion. Don’t you worry.
2022 College Football Schedules: All 131 Teams