Twelve-Team Playoff Proposed by CFP Working Group

A proposal to change the current four-team college football playoff format has been presented by a sub-group of the College Football Playoff’s management committee. The proposal would expand the current playoff field from four teams to 12.

“The four-team format has been very popular and is a big success,” the members of the four-person working group said in a statement. “But it’s important that we consider the opportunity for more teams and more student-athletes to participate in the playoff. After reviewing numerous options, we believe this proposal is the best option to increase participation, enhance the regular season and grow the national excitement of college football.”

The working group has been meeting over a two-year period to discuss new possibilities with the playoff format. This current proposal calls for bids to the six highest-ranked conference champions, with the other six teams to be determined by the College Football Playoff selection committee. No conference would automatically qualify and there would be no limit on the number of teams from one conference.

The four highest-ranked conference champions would then receive a first-round bye, while teams seeded Nos. 5 through 12 would play each other in the first round on the home field of the higher-ranked team. For instance, No. 5 would host No. 12, No. 6 would host No. 11, No. 7 would host No. 10, and No. 8 would host No. 9.

The committee has proposed that the quarterfinals and semifinals would be played in bowl games, while the championship game would continue to be played at a neutral site that has been determined years in advance by bid.

As for the timing of these games, the current recommendation is for the first round games to take place “sometime” during the two-week period after the conference championship games. The quarterfinals would be played on January 1, or January 2 when New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday, and then on the adjacent day. Like the quarterfinals, the semifinals are also expected to take place over a two-day time frame.

The bracket would feature no re-seeding and would remain as is once it is set.

Which bowls will be involved is not yet part of the recommendation, nor has the date when this proposal would go into action if it is approved. Executive Director of the CFP Bill Hancock did say that if this proposal is passed it would not go into effect this year or next year. The current agreement for the four-team playoff lasts through the 2025-2026 season, but there is little doubt that it could be amended to allow for this suggested adaptation.

“This is a very exciting moment for college football,” the working group members said in the statement. “We think we can capture what student-athletes and fans love about the game and extend it to more people in more places, while enhancing what’s great about the regular season.”

The four members of the working group (Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey, Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson, and Notre Dame Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick) presented their recommendation today during a virtual meeting of the full management committee that administers the CFP.

The CFP management committee members are Mike Aresco, commissioner, American Athletic Conference; Bob Bowlsby, commissioner, Big 12 Conference; Keith Gill, commissioner, Sun Belt Conference; Judy MacLeod, commissioner, Conference USA; Jim Phillips, commissioner, Atlantic Coast Conference; Greg Sankey, commissioner, Southeastern Conference; Larry Scott, commissioner, Pacific-12 Conference; John Steinbrecher, commissioner, Mid-American Conference; Jack Swarbrick, athletics director, Notre Dame; Craig Thompson, commissioner, Mountain West Conference; Kevin Warren, commissioner, Big Ten Conference.

Now the management committee will review the recommendation at a meeting they have scheduled in Chicago June 17-18. If they endorse the 12-team proposal or reach consensus for an alternative model — or decide to retain the current format — they will then forward their recommendation to the CFP board of managers, which meets June 22 in Dallas.

Members of the CFP board of managers include Eric Barron – Big Ten Conference (President, Penn State); Rodney Bennett – Conference USA (President, Southern Mississippi); Jim Clements – Atlantic Coast Conference (President, Clemson); Gordon Gee – Big 12 Conference (President, West Virginia); Jack Hawkins – Sun Belt Conference (President, Troy); Rev. John Jenkins – President, Notre Dame (Independent); Mark Keenum (chair) – Southeastern Conference (President, Mississippi State); Kirk Schulz – Pacific-12 Conference (President, Washington State); Satish Tripathi – Mid-American Conference (President, Buffalo); R. Gerald Turner – American Athletic Conference (President, SMU); Keith Whitfield – Mountain West Conference (President, UNLV).

The board will then review the recommendation on June 22 and decide whether to move forward with feasibility studies and discussions with the necessary entities to make this all happen. If the board authorizes such a move forward, they will meet again in September to review the results, along with input from presidents, athletics directors, coaches, student-athletes, and others.

The ultimate decision on changing the format would be made by the CFP board of managers.