College Football Playoff takes another step toward 12-team expansion

Alabama celebrates after defeating Ohio State in the College Football National Championship game.
Alabama celebrates after defeating Ohio State in the College Football National Championship game in January at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
(Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

The College Football Playoff took another significant step toward expanding from four teams to 12 Tuesday as the CFP board of managers authorized a “summer review phase that will engage other important voices in this matter,” including bowl partners such as the Rose Bowl and broadcast partner ESPN.

“The four-team playoff has been a great success and I’m confident it will remain a success,” said Mississippi State President Mark Keenum, the chairman of the CFP board of managers, a collection of university presidents. “Nevertheless, it is our responsibility to explore options to make it even better by increasing the number of schools that participate in it.”

The CFP management committee, made up of the Football Bowl Subdivision conference commissioners, also will engage campuses this summer, soliciting feedback from athletes, coaches, athletic directors and presidents and chancellors.

“I caution observers of our process not to rush to conclusions about what this board may decide,” Keenum said in a statement. “The working group has presented us a thorough and thoughtful proposal. There is more work to do, more listening to do and more information needed before we can make a decision. We look forward to hearing more and learning more in time for our next meeting in September.”


The CFP’s working group brought forward the 12-team proposal earlier this month to the commissioners, who seemed impressed with the expansion plan. The playoff would include the six conference champions with the highest CFP ranking and six at-large teams, giving all FBS teams a real path to the national championship for the first time.

The College Football Playoff is considering expanding from four to 12 teams, with six spots reserved for the highest-ranked conference champions.

June 10, 2021

The Pac-12, which has not been represented in the playoff since Washington made it in 2016, is one of the parties that clearly should benefit from expansion.

The top four seeds of the 12-team playoff would receive byes while the No. 5 through No. 12 seeds play the first round on campus sites. Then the quarterfinals would be staged in current New Year’s Six bowl games, played on New Year’s Day unless it falls on a Sunday. The semifinals also would happen at NY6 bowls.

It remains to be seen how the Tournament of Roses will react to losing the Rose Bowl’s traditional Big Ten-against-Pac 12 pairing in most years as a playoff quarterfinal.

The CFP’s current contract with ESPN runs through 2026. For the 12-team playoff to take place before then, the parties would have to renegotiate. The value of adding eight games to the CFP’s TV package certainly could be enticing for the network.