You may want to throw any hope of the College Football Playoff expanding before the 2025 season out the window.
Heck, maybe we should all simply be happy if college football leaders decide to expand the playoff at all in the next few months.
There was no move to expand the playoff this week when the College Football Playoff management committee met to discuss potential options. Wednesday's meeting was seen as a chance to get some clarity on a potential 12-team playoff for the future. Instead, the committee said "a variety of issues remain" despite "a strong consensus that expansion is desirable."
How many teams?
One of those main issues is the size of the playoff. An 8-team playoff is still apparently an option. And when — if? — the committee decides to expand the playoff, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Thursday on SiriusXM's Big 12 radio that there's no chance the playoff will expand in the next two seasons. The playoff debuted during the 2014 season and is currently in its eighth season.
"And, you know, to be clear, there has never been any chance that we were going to make changes to the playoff in years eight, nine, and 10," Bowlsby said. "The sites are all set. Lots of hotels have been acquired and they're just too many logistics to do it in the near term. So there's always been a little bit of misunderstanding that we could just flip a switch and decide we were going to start playing a different format. But in the very near term, nothing's going to happen.”
Two other sticking points in expansion talks have been about the roles of conference championship games and bowl games. Will Power Five conferences automatically get at least one team in an expanded playoff? How many bowl games will be a part of an expanded playoff? Two bowl games currently serve as the semifinals on a rotating basis for the four-team playoff.
Who automatically gets in?
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said on the Big Ten's SiriusXM channel that he supports the idea of automatic qualification for Power Five conferences and wants to maintain the conference's partnership with the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl is a big reason why playoff semifinals can't be played on New Year's Day unless the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl are the hosts.
“So I'm a big believer in the automatic qualifier for the Big Ten conference and the other Power Five conferences," Warren said. "I'm a big believer in expansion. The other thing that I want to make sure that we keep top of mind is our bowl relationships. I mean, we’ve had a long-term, very strong relationship with the Rose Bowl and our other bowls, the Orange Bowl, all of our bowls. We need to make sure that we, one, we have existing contracts with them. We need to honor those agreements, but we need to make sure that we're mindful of treating our bowl partners with the class and respect that they deserve.”
Warren's position is at odds with the one taken in November by AAC commissioner Mike Aresco. He said that he would "vigorously" oppose a playoff that includes automatic bids for a team from each Power Five conference.
Oh, and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Friday on the Paul Finebaum show that "I'm fine with four" and didn't seem too enthused with the idea that Power Five conferences would automatically get a bid.
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) December 3, 2021
“The West Coast has missed five of seven, probably six of eight playoff opportunities," Sankey said. "Yet people aren’t ready to move. We gave each other homework assignments, go look at bowl relationships, make sure we have clarity there. I think you’ll see a lot of conversations about just allocating a bid for conference champions. I question the wisdom of that approach. That’s why we said in the format working group, we said six best conference champions based on that rankings analysis rather than just assigning automatic qualifying status by name.”
As you can see, there's still a lot to be worked out despite months of meetings among commissioners and other folks involved with the playoff. Maybe the playoff committee needs a hard deadline. Sometimes deadlines spur people into action.
Or maybe that would make the management committee just stick with four teams. Bowlsby also said Thursday that he felt that some people were ready to keep the status quo. That would stink, wouldn't it?