12/02 10:33 CST EXPLAINER: How will College Football Playoff expansion work?
EXPLAINER: How will College Football Playoff expansion work?
By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
The College Football Playoff will include 12 teams, starting with the 2024
An expansion plan that was crafted for two years and haggled over for another
18 months finally cleared all the obstacles needed to go from idea to reality.
The CFP announced Thursday that the current four-team system would be tripling
There are still a few more details to work out, like exact dates of some of the
games, but college football is two years away from another dramatic change to
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
The 10 conferences that play major college football also run the College
Football Playoff. Essentially, the conferences agreed to add eight more teams
to the system that has been used to determine a champion since 2014.
There were plenty of delays and disagreements --- some downright petty --- on
the way to consensus.
Flipping the format to 12 with a couple years still left on the original
12-year media rights contract with ESPN that expires after the 2025-26 season
required rescheduling of games and unspooling of bowl contracts.
But now it's done.
WOW! WHO GETS RICH?
The conferences and schools that share the hundreds of millions of dollars of
annual revenue generated currently by the playoff will now be making even more.
Expanding two years before the end of the current contract with ESPN is
expected to bring in an estimated $450 million in additional gross revenue.
"ESPN has the opportunity to broadcast these games," CFP Executive Director
Bill Hancock said. "And we're just into this today, of course, and so we don't
know yet whether they will exercise their rights. We're just going to have to
wait and see."
That's unlikely to be a problem.
Hancock said the current revenue distribution plan will "philosophically"
remain the same.
Last year, each Power Five conference received $74 million. The other five Bowl
Subdivision conferences shared $95 million. Notre Dame received $3.55 million,
and the other six FBS independents shared $1.88 million.
Currently, conferences of teams that make the CFP earn a $6 million bonus.
All of those figures will go up.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE CURRENT CONTRACT EXPIRES
Everybody involved with the College Football Playoff has expressed a desire to
explore having multiple television partners in the next deal, not just ESPN.
ESPN will no doubt still want in. Expect Fox to also bid, and maybe others like
NBC, which just added the Big Ten to its lineup that includes Notre Dame.
One projection had the next CFP media rights deal reaching $2 billion annually.
WHERE AND WHEN ARE THE GAMES?
The first round of the playoff in 2024 will take place on campus sites matching
teams seeded 5-12 the week ending Saturday, Dec. 21. Exact dates are still to
The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played in the bowls that have been
rotating as hosts of the semifinals in the current format: Rose, Sugar, Orange,
Peach, Cotton and Fiesta.
The championship game for the 2024 season will be played Jan. 20, 2025, in
A similar schedule will be used for the 2025 season, with a title game to be
played Jan. 19, 2026, in Miami Gardens, Florida.
WHAT TEAMS GET IN?
The model is referred to as six and six. The six highest ranked conference
champions get a spot, with the four highest ranked champs earning first-round
A selection committee will also pick the six best at-large teams, chosen
regardless of conference.
To get an idea of what it would look like, using the latest CFP rankings and
assuming the current conference leaders win out, Georgia, Michigan, TCU and USC
would be the top-four seeds.
Clemson and Tulane would also make it as champions of their conferences.
The at-large selections would be Ohio State, Alabama, Tennessee, Penn State,
Kansas State and Utah.
First-round matchups would be Tulane at Ohio State; Utah at Alabama; Kansas
State at Tennessee and Clemson at Penn State.
WILL THE CFP EXPAND EVEN MORE?
Hancock was jokingly asked when the playoff would expand to 16. He laughed off
the question, but he did make an important point.
The first two seasons of the 12-team format in 2024 and '25 will be like a test
drive. Thing could look different when new contracts are set for 2026 and
beyond. Maybe more games will be played on campus and fewer in neutral site
But Hancock said university presidents and chancellors who oversee the playoff
and have final say in what it will look like are firmly behind the number of
teams and the composition of the field.
"Every one is solid on 12, six, six and there hasn't been any conversation
about changing that," Hancock said. "I would be stunned if that were changed."
It would also be stunning if the next playoff contract extends as far out as
the last one, so figure the next round of expansion talk is at least six years
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