New College Football Playoff format proposed ahead of 2021-22 season

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Fans have clamored for the College Football Playoff to expand past four teams for years and it seems they may get their wish.

By Dalton Coppola, Sports Editor

The College Football Playoff format has drawn criticism from fans and experts alike since the annual tournament’s inception in 2014. The main gripes with the current format are that there is a lack of consistency in the selection process and the tournament is very exclusive, making it nearly impossible for non-power-five teams to make the tournament.

But a new proposal for an expanded CFP format would seemingly solve both of the issues at hand.

A subgroup of the CFP management committee brought forward a proposal for an expansion to the tournament last Thursday, from four to 12 teams. The new format would also provide teams that want to qualify for the event with a clear blueprint for how they can do so. The group firmly believes that a change would be beneficial for all parties involved, from the players all the way to the fans.

“This is a very exciting moment for college football,” the subcommittee said. “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.”

In prior years, the CFP selection committee would rank their top four teams, and these teams would make the tournament, for a total of three games. Strength of schedule, conference championships and record are the three variables that take precedence when the committee is deciding which teams earn a bid and which don’t — the process was solely based on subjectivity, leading many to take exception to it.

If this new format is adopted, the top six ranked conference champions will earn a bid, and the six highest ranked remaining non-conference champions will then also earn a bid.

The new format would guarantee a non-power-five team a shot at the national title. Five of the six conference champions will almost certainly be power-five teams — ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12 and PAC-12 — but the sixth conference champion will be pulled from one of the group of five minor conferences. Programs that don’t have the luxury of playing a strong schedule in a power-five conference but have a talented roster will now have a chance to prove that they can hang with the perennial powerhouses, such as Clemson and Alabama.

The biggest concern seems to be the risk of injury that comes with playing the additional games. Universities still don’t pay collegiate athletes. But an injury in an extended season could derail their prospective professional careers. Meanwhile, universities and conferences will undoubtedly reap major financial gains from the increased exposure and benefits from playing in an expanded postseason.

It remains unknown how this hypothetical tournament would impact the season’s scheduling going forward, but remains a subject of debate heading into the next stages of the proposal process.

Although the proposal is an exciting step for many, fans shouldn’t expect to see this implemented in the immediate future, according to CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock.

“Now that the working group has presented its proposal, the management committee will solicit input from university presidents, coaches, athletics directors, student-athletes and others,” Hancock said. “I do want to remind you that the final decision will be made by the board of managers, and that decision will not come before this fall.”

The current agreement between the CFP and the football programs across the nation for a four team format runs through the 2025-26 season — presenting a major hurdle to seeing the change be implemented in the next couple of years.

The next step is for the 11-member CFP management committee to review the proposal and send it for a vote at their meetings later this week. If greenlighted, the proposal will then be sent to the CFP Board of managers — a committee consisting of presidents from various universities and conferences — for review at a conference on June 22. This same board will gather input from athletic directors and presidents from other universities on their receptiveness to an expanded playoff and make a final decision regarding the format in September.

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