College Football Playoff Group Talks Expansion, Discusses Future of the Game

Following the announcement that the College Football Playoff is now examining a move to a 12-team playoff proposal, members of the management committee participated in a teleconference with reporters to discuss why the 12-team proposal was the favored recommendation. They also answered a number of questions regarding their proposal and the future of college football. The highlights of everything that was said can be found below.

— “Today’s an exciting day for college football fans.” — Chair Bill Hancock

— There is still more work to do, however. “The four-team playoff has been a really big success.”

— The plan was always to review the playoff after they were six years in and they have done that. The working groups message is a desire for more participation for more teams.

— This is just a proposal from a unified and excited sub-committee.

— “No matter what happens next, college football will thrive.”

— Notre Dame’s Jack Swarbrick says the route to play 17 games in a season is highly unlikely, but possible. “I’m not sure how it could be probable,” he responds to Dennis Dodd saying 17 games in a season is probable. Dodd apologizes and said he meant possible, not probable.

— It’s not for the working group to tackle the issue if a team loses in the first round that they still be eligible to play in a bowl game. But the timing would allow for it.

— Can Notre Dame qualify for a bye? No. Swarbrick says he looks forward to never hearing again how Notre Dame didn’t have to play an extra game or win a conference championship.

— The 12-game model presented opportunities that weren’t there with eight, especially in terms of issues with a conference champ being ranked in the top 10 but not making the 8-team playoff.

— Why the dedication to keeping the bowl games involved in this new format? The history and the commitment the bowls have made to the process made sense to keep them involved and help the bowl game relevancy. But these things are all up to discussions. This is just the recommendation of four people. This also gives college football the power to reassert the importance of New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve.

— This move is a response to the concentration that has occurred. 78% of the opportunities in the playoffs have gone to five teams. In four of the five years, no one has moved from further than 7th to the final four. In two years there were three non-ranked teams in the first poll that made it. That kind of thing creates more interest and interest. Having more interest in more teams in October and November heightens the excitement for more teams nationally. There will still be 25-30 teams in the final month that will still have a shot at the playoffs, and that makes the game more exciting.

— Bill Hancock says 12 teams keeps September important and keeps November important. “That was a real benefit of 12. Both September and November are helped.”

— Why not have more playoff games on campuses? “We’ve always honored the sanctity and tradition of the bowl environment.” They have tried to do things that help everybody “in the bowl and college football ecosystem.” There are also weather concerns. “I’m not sure playing in East Lansing on January 7 is a really good idea.” That may favor more warm-weather schools, but some stadiums in the north need to be winterized and so they also don’t want to interfere with that.

— Does the pending NIL discussions make it easier to ask for more games from the student-athletes? They did not have that conversation, but they all know there’s going to be great change with the game. “This structure seemed to find the balance.”

— First and foremost in their conversations was the health and welfare of the student-athletes. Right now only 3% of student-athletes have a chance to make the playoffs in football. In basketball that number is 24%. Most teams involved in the playoffs would only be playing one additional game.

— Was this driven by any trend of disinterest by the fans? The commissioners underestimated how difficult it would be for the teams to be on the outside looking in.

— You wonder if there will be less opting out for bowl games from players if they’re involved in the playoffs.

— Why would Notre Dame and other independents support a format that rewards conference championships? Swarbrick said this was an okay trade off for the increased opportunities nationally. While ND doesn’t have a conf championship game and they don’t have the same risk as Alabama or Clemson, they can now say they are putting their risk in having a first-round game rather than a bye.

— Nobody entered the process two years ago at the same place. They have all evolved in their thinking about it and have reached a very firm consensus. This was a rewarding experience. The media didn’t get a leak for two years. “It was just a great process.” They didn’t go into it thinking 12, but you needed to keep the broader interests of the game in mind.

— Why are they thinking 12 now when not long ago they were terrified of saying the word “playoffs.” Basically, times have changed. We’re in a transformational time in the sport. There are entire parts of the country that haven’t been involved. They had to take a step back and look at the game and the best way to help it. They know there will be detractors and criticisms. Not everything is going to be perfect and ideal but they will continue to work towards building a postseason that builds importance in the regular season.

— What about fans not being able to travel? If you don’t want to travel you can watch on television. It’s not safe to assume it’s the same cadre of fans going to each game.

— Are home games for the top 4 teams a better television product? Reasonable people can disagree. How do you come up with tickets for the road teams? Andy Staples’ response: “YOU DON’T!”

— The ability of schools to be able to host December games on short notice is a stresser. There are graduations going on and things like that.

— This is just the start of a dialogue. The four members of this working group have talked it out for two years. Now it’s time to get input from the colleagues and answer their questions and concerns.