College football playoff expansion is unlikely to stall in the near future amid jealousy, suspicion and voting


Less than a month before college football playoff executives meet to consider the next steps in developing the current four-team field, approval of a proposed 12-team expansion has never been more in doubt, multiple sources tell CBS Sports .

Prominent figures on CFP integral committees have concerns about the process and whether the proposed structure is the right move for their conferences and teams.

What seemed like a simple approval process just a few months ago is now an attempt marked by jealousy and doubt that lacks mutual trust between the key parties.

The uncertainty was heightened in late July when it became known ahead of time that Texas and Oklahoma were discussing leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. The sudden migration of these two powerhouses has put the playoff expansion in a different light.

Eight days after the Texas-Oklahoma news was released, Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff told CBS Sports that the expansion needed to be “re-addressed.”

A Power Five source suggested that the process of “rushing out” the playoff expansion news was intended earlier this year to help advance the release of the move in Texas and Oklahoma.

The consternation has risen to the point that two high profile sources involved in the process tell CBS Sports that they are supporting expansion in fewer numbers than the proposed 12 teams, perhaps as few as eight.

Another slowdown in the expansion process is likely to be “alternative proposals” that are expected to be presented, according to one of these sources. These proposals will certainly include different concepts of structure and access as the SEC grows.

“I think we’re going back to square zero and starting over,” said a source closely involved in the expansion process. “I don’t see 12 there.”

Aside from the number of teams and accessibility, sources tell CBS Sports that there are also concerns about the potential of teams playing up to 17 games, as well as the perception that the SEC is dominating a 12-team format.

As suggested, the extended playoffs would include the six top-ranked Conference Champions followed by six major teams determined by CFP rankings. The four top-ranked Conference Champions received bye tickets for the first round.

The 12-team proposal was believed to level the pitch. The Pac-12 would have increased access. For most years it would almost certainly place its champion in the top six. Notre Dame would have the best access ever and would only have to land in or around the top 12 to receive a bid. The best-placed Group of Five champion would basically be guaranteed a place with the potential for other Group of Five teams to enter the field as well.

Any change in the playoff field requires a unanimous vote by the CFP board (11 FBS presidents / chancellors). This group is to meet with the CFP Management Committee (FBS Sports Directors) at the end of September to review a feasibility study of the 12-team field.

It was once believed that the meeting would result in a confirmation of an expanded playoff field of 12 teams. Now such an action seems extremely unlikely.

“The board of directors will meet on the 28th,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock told CBS Sports. “It will be up to them to decide what action to take, if any.”

Eyebrows raised on Tuesday when Iowa sporting director Gary Barta said it was his “understanding” that the proposal would be voted on with 12 teams in September.

“This proposal has not yet been voted on,” Barta told reporters. “I think that’s going to happen in September. That’s number one, just a quick update.”

In response to Barta’s comments, a source modeling the expansion process tells CBS Sports that a vote is “very unlikely”. Another said, “Don’t think that’s right.”

“Whether they vote or approve something is certain [to be determined]“CFP spokesman Brett Daniels told CBS Sports in an email.

Barta is the chairman of the CFP selection committee, which sets the CFP rankings every week and determines the field with four teams at the end of the season. He has no right to vote on the enlargement. It is entirely possible that he simply pronounced himself wrong.

All of this adds to the confusion created by moving between Texas and Oklahoma. This added new considerations to a process that began in April. Buried in a CFP release earlier this month was news that a working group was considering expanding the field to include up to six or up to 16 teams.

It’s safe to say that the college football world has been shaken.

When the proposal for a group of 12 was approved in June, the CFP Board conducted a feasibility study known as the “Summer Assessment”. The commissioners have been tasked with returning to their campus and seeking feedback from coaches, athletes, and faculty sports officials. The word “vote” never appeared in this June press release.

Since then, the SEC has grown to 16 teams and will be the first “super conference” (by 2025 at the latest). The Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 responded by forming a loose “alliance” for non-conference planning and other purposes. The Big 12 were marginalized as an eight-team league that focused on adding teams to maintain their power five status.

West Virginia President E. Gordon Gee summed up some of the fear last week. He said the concept of a 12-team playoff was “life support”. Gee is a board member who will vote on a possible expansion. He stated that he would not vote for it now, despite the fact that he was in favor of a 12-team playoff when the concept was announced almost five months ago.

That challenged the prospect of unanimous approval later this month. CFP staff met weekly this summer to discuss enlargement.

“I don’t see that’s the way to go,” Gee told CBS Sports about a vote on the expansion. “I’ll have to take up the whole subject again.”

Due to the sensitivity of the subject, sources were only willing to speak to CBS Sports on condition of anonymity.

A source contacted for this story suggested that key parties have not yet received enough information to make a correct decision.

Add to this the ongoing upheaval over the perception that the addition of Texas and Oklahoma tipped the scales of college football (even more) in the SEC’s favor. The league continues to have the most, best programs and games. That dominance is sure to continue with the addition of two powerhouses in the Longhorns and Sooners.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, a key member of the CFP expansion working group, claims the league did not contact Texas and Oklahoma. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby was also a member of that group, where the two – and others – discussed expansion while the SEC was considering looting the Big 12 of its top programs.

Any other power five league, Sankey said, would have picked up the Texas call to Oklahoma just as the SEC did. He claims that all parallel work to expand the playoffs was done in good faith.

“I don’t have one yet [the other commissioners] say, ‘I wouldn’t have done what you would have done if this opportunity had arisen,’ “Sankey told 1010XL last month in Jacksonville, Florida.

Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 executives have indicated they’re frustrated that they weren’t part of the original workgroup. The structure of this group was commissioned by the CFP Board of Directors and approved by all conferences in 2019.

While the CFP may end up with a field of 12 teams anyway, there are simply too many conflicting issues for this September 28th meeting to result in a punch.

In addition to the structure of the playoff, discussions are needed on how to maximize its value. Ohio State AD Gene Smith is on record, among other things, with his support for the expiry of the current 12-year contract in order to price a newly expanded playoff on the open market.

There is support in some circles for the idea of ​​selling rights at different levels of the playoffs (quarter-finals, semi-finals, championship) to multiple rights holders once the ESPN deal expires.

Among those who will be in the room on Sept. 28, it has been suggested that ESPN could be persuaded to give up its exclusive negotiating window in exchange for long-term rights to part of the playoffs. The CFP would theoretically have leverage because – as Smith advocated – it could bring the lucrative TV property to market in five years after the ESPN window closed.

ESPN has had exclusive rights to BCS / CFP games for over 20 of the last 24 years (since the introduction of BCS in 1998) and will retain them until 2025.

Industry sources have rated an expanded playoff at 2 to 5 times the current average annual value of $ 475 million.

To make matters worse, the Big 12 were damaged by the loss of their two most prominent teams. Will it have the same access and revenue distribution as a 10-team league with Texas and Oklahoma? The league is currently reviewing its four-year expansion options for its current TV deals with ESPN and Fox.

To make matters worse, ESPN has expiring conference contracts with the Big Ten (2023), Pac-12 (2024) and Big 12 (2025) before the CFP deal is concluded. The economy of media rights suggests that negotiations on an expanded CFP field would have priority over new conference deals.