Answer the most important questions related to the College Football Extension Extension

Tired of waiting for commissioners to decide on a college football stadium expansion, the 11 presidents and advisors who make up the CFP Board of Directors took over Friday with a unanimous vote to expand the stadium to 12 teams in 2026.

The chiefs strongly urged commissioners to try to implement the new formula as soon as 2024. The 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick will meet next week in Irving, Texas, to begin this discussion.

After more than a year of hesitation and fruitless in-person meetings, the post-sports season’s massive change has happened quickly – in a one-hour virtual meeting.

How did they finally reach an agreement? Who benefits most from the New Deal? And then what?

Heather Dinech, Adam Rittenberg, and Pete Tamil break it all.

Why are they expanding now?

The root of this expansion, like most things in college sports, is money.

Two weeks ago, when the Board of Directors made an unscheduled call to set up this moment, there was a tone among the chiefs on the call that they were leaving a lot of money on the table. The cost of not expanding in the last two years of the current College Football Playoff contract is estimated to be $450 million. And one source told ESPN that leaving a lot of money on the table was the impetus for the re-engagement. There will almost certainly be a 12-team playoff after 2026. The next few weeks should determine if they can work on the logistics in time to implement it sooner.

When asked why now, on the Friday of Labor Day weekend and the opening of the college football season, Mississippi State President and CFP Chairman Mark Keenum said, “It’s about time.”

“It’s time to make a decision,” he said. “We need to give directions to the commissioners. We felt we needed to give them a final thought, ‘This is where we are.'” This is where we think college football should head in regards to the playoff for our national champion. “…I think our commissioners need that guidance from this board, and so I’m glad we were able to give it to them today.” – drunk

How did they end up at 12 over 8 or 16?

There has always been strong support at both the presidential and commissioner level for the 12 teams, in part because they loved the first rounds of the top four seed, but also because of the practical logistics of the college football calendar. While there were some who wanted at least to consider the possibility of a 16-team format, there was not enough interest.

“You start to go into some of the details and the logistics…and then someone said, ‘Well, why don’t we consider other options?’” Keenum said. “Well, I’ll say this, all the chiefs believe that 12-team coordination is the right thing to do, at this time, at this moment.” — Dinner

How does this affect the reorganization of the conference in the future?

The biggest resonance is that the six public bids will serve as a temptation to keep Notre Dame independent for the foreseeable future. With a clear arrival at the final and NBC appearing eager to keep Notre Dame now having a slice of the Big Ten, it looks like the two biggest steps for Irish independence are in place for the near future.

For the rest of college football, that’s a great question. The financial gap between Power Two in the Big Ten and the SEC is still large. There will always be excited schools racing to join those tournaments. But the fact that there will be automatic bids for the conference’s top six champions adds a layer of certainty to leagues like the Pac-12 and Big 12 that have been battered by recent splits. Holistically, it helps the sport. Realignment will occur unrelated to reaching the playoff. – drunk

Who benefits most from an extended playoff? Are you hurting anyone?

The SEC has had the most appearances (10), wins (14) and tournaments (5) during the CFP era, and is likely to boost its field share with as many as seven slots available. Although Commissioner Greg Sankey has repeatedly stated that the league did well with a four-team playoff, the number of CFP-capable programs in his league, as well as the additions of Oklahoma and Texas, increased the need for access. The Big Ten would benefit, too, as the league crammed the top 12 into the final CFP standings, but only had six total entries by three teams in the four-team squad model.

The model also represented a significant win for the Group of Five Conferences, which produced the first CFP entrant in last year’s four-team system (Cincinnati) and unanimously supported the 12-team proposal. At least one Group of Five program will conduct the 12-team playoffs annually, and enhanced profiles for tournaments such as AAC and Sun Belt increase the chances of participants in the 5-man group in some years. Although it is likely that the 5 road team participants are playing in their first round matches, they finally have a real seat at the table.

The vote is good news for Notre Dame, which will have six access points instead of four. Athletics director Jack Swarbrick was part of the four-man working group that in June 2021 introduced the 12-team model, which was subsequently approved. He remained an ardent supporter and ally of Sankei and others during the tense commissioner meetings that followed.

There are no clear losers in the extended playoffs, although the annual distribution of teams can reinforce the gap between the SEC, the Big Ten and other power conferences. The model that guarantees points for the six top-ranked conference champions creates the possibility of leagues like Pac-12, Big 12 or ACC being disqualified altogether, which can sting in multiple ways. The Pac-12 hasn’t had a CFP team since 2016, while the only CFP entrant in Big 12, Oklahoma, will soon be leaving for the SEC. But a post-season system that triples the number of spots should, in theory, help every major league.

– Rittenberg

What does this mean for the independence of Notre Dame?

Notre Dame’s strong preference is for FBS to remain independent well into the future. Football independence is central to the university’s identity, and there is a belief around college athletics that Swarbrick and President Rev. John Jenkins, both 68, didn’t want to be leaders to give up on that stature before they retired.

Swarbrick’s contribution and support for the 12-team model underscores his belief that it will allow Notre Dame to maintain its position while still enjoying the access necessary to compete for national championships. While some stakeholders were less willing to compromise, Notre Dame agreed to a system in which it would never receive a first round, making the path to the championship more difficult.

Notre Dame would remain an expansion target for any league, in particular the Big Ten, which has been aspiring to the school for decades. But Notre Dame is less motivated by money than the other candidates for expansion, and it has left millions on the table to remain football independent. Notre Dame was always more likely to join a conference due to supplement access issues or the inability to formulate a nationally competitive schedule. Although scheduling concerns may be heightened by the reorganization, Notre Dame is in a position to compete regularly for one of the Big Six. Notre Dame has made twice in the CFP four-team and finished in the top 15 of the final CFP rankings every year since 2017.

– Rittenberg

Is this the last time we’ll see a supplement expansion?

Among the many unanswered questions is how long the next decade will be, which will help determine the extent to which presidents will adhere to this format. The current contract was 12 years, and it may only be 10 years before they change the field of the four teams. If there is one thing that is certain about college athletics, it is that nothing is certain for any length of time.

Keenum couldn’t help but laugh a little when he referenced his head coach, Mike Leach, who has publicly and repeatedly stated that he supports a 64-team format.

Will we always be in 12 teams? [format]? “I can’t answer that question,” Keenum said. We’re still looking for ways to improve the playoffs in the future…and luckily, I have a head football coach who thinks we should have 64 teams. I mean, that’s what he believes in, so my point is that there will always be room for improvement.” — Dinner

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