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No changes in playoff format, College Football Playoff presidents say

Just hours before Alabama and Clemson played for the national championship, the university presidents who form the College Football Playoff board of managers issued a statement quashing any speculation about expanding the four-team bracket.

“It’s way too soon — much too soon — to know if that is even a possibility,” chairman Mark Keenum said in a statement, adding: “If a decision were to be made down the road, the presidents would be the ones to make it and we are not there.”

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The last few weeks have featured widespread debate among media, coaches, players and fans about switching from the current format to an eight-team bracket that could include champions from each of the Power Five conferences, a Group of Six representative and two at-large teams.

But Keenum said that the board’s 11 college presidents and chancellors were in “unanimous agreement that the playoff has been a tremendous success for students, fans, and universities.”

Taking advantage

By showing up at Levi’s Stadium in the Bay Area this weekend, Alabama and Clemson did more than steal the Pac-12’s championship game venue.

Both schools are also in the process of stealing the Pac-12’s future players, with one Alabama coach actually saying that recruiting on the West Coast is easier because the Pac-12 is so lousy.

“No doubt,” Alabama assistant Jeff Banks told Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News. “Right away you’ve got to point — and it’s no negative, but it’s just fact — you’ve got to point to the fact that USC has had a lot of mixture in its coaching staff, in the head coaching position, and they’ve kind of been a little up and down since Pete Carroll left.’’

He added, “That’s probably the No. 1 issue, and UCLA hasn’t been as strong as it’s been in recent years. So those two powers that really ran the Pac-12, those two are down, and Stanford has the limitations it has academically. Washington’s kind of moved up. It’s all changed. It’s a little weaker, a little more [opportunity] for national people to come in and take guys.”

Banks also acknowledged that playing a championship game on national television in the middle of Pac-12 country increases their power here.

“No matter where we play, we’re going to be on TV nationally,” Banks said. “But all the publicity leading up to the national championship, and being here, in California, I think it does help us.”

Field is up to task

Notch a victory for the field at Levi’s Stadium.

It was only a month ago that Carroll laid into the long-running turf problems at the Santa Clara venue, calling the playing surface “really lousy.”

“There were guys slipping all over the place,” the Seattle Seahawks coach told reporters after his team played the San Francisco 49ers in mid-December. “We were prepared for it to be a difficult turf, and it still was a factor.”

When the stadium opened in 2014, the field had to be quickly resodded, and problems continued through 2015 and into the 2016 Super Bowl. Last fall, players complained after the New York Giants visited.

There were a few slips Monday night, and the grass took a predictable beating over the course of the game, but the field held up well, especially considering the heavy rain that fell in the Bay Area over the weekend.

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