Gold and Blue Nation

Breaking down the proposal for a 12-team College Football Playoff expansion

Gold and Blue Nation

The College Football Playoff looks to be headed for a revamp.

After weeks of speculation — and even years of pleading from fans of the sport — a subgroup of the College Football Playoff management committee announced a proposal for a 12-team tournament on Thursday.

This new format would guarantee automatic bids to the six highest-ranked conference champions, plus an additional six at-large bids to the next highest-ranked teams to complete a 12-team field. Under this proposal, no conferences would be guaranteed automatic bids, and there would be no limit on the number of participants from each conference.

The four highest-ranked conference winners would receive a first-round bye, while the remaining eight teams would play their opening games at campus sites. Quarterfinals and semifinals would be played in bowl games, similar to the semifinals in the current four-team playoff. The championship game would also be played at a neutral site. 

Under this new proposal, opening round games would be played sometime during the two-week window after conference championship games. Quarterfinals would be played on New Year’s Day (unless the holiday falls on a Sunday), while dates for semifinals and championship games have not been determined. 

During a teleconference Thursday, CFP executive director Bill Hancock said that the driving force behind this proposed expansion is creating opportunities for more teams to compete for national titles.

“This proposal, at its heart, was created to provide more participation to more players and more schools,” Hancock said. “In a nutshell, that is the working group’s message: more participation.” 

These major changes to the College Football Playoff structure won’t happen soon, though. According to a statement from the CFP, this proposal is only the first step in a process that will not conclude before the fall. The statement also notes that this CFP subgroup has discussed possible new playoff formats for the last two years.  

“We’re very excited about where we are,” Hancock said. “Couldn’t be happier with the working group’s work, what they’ve done so far, and no matter what happens next, college football will thrive, CFP will thrive, and frankly it’s been heartening to see how many people care about this great game that we all love so much.” 

There’s also no clear timetable on when a 12-team playoff could replace the current format. Hancock confirmed that a new format will not be implemented this year or next. The current agreement for a four-team CFP extends through the 2025-26 college football season. 

The next step for this proposal will occur June 17-18, when the management committee reviews this recommendation. It will be up to that committee to endorse the new proposal, the current format or an alternative format, and then make a recommendation to the CFP board of managers, which will meet June 22 in Dallas. 

The CFP has determined the national champion in Division I college football since 2014. It replaced the Bowl Championship Series, which functioned from 1998-2013. 

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