The College Football Playoff’s board of managers will hold a virtual meeting on Friday that could accelerate playoff expansion as early as 2024 if the 11 presidents and chancellors who comprise the sport’s most powerful group vote on a format and unanimously agree to it, sources confirmed to ESPN on Wednesday.
“There’s momentum,” a source with knowledge of the conversations told ESPN. “There’s definitely momentum.”
The source indicated it was 50-50 whether there would be any kind of vote. Sports Illustrated first reported the meeting.
CFP executive director Bill Hancock declined to confirm or deny the report. The CFP’s management committee, which is composed of the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, is expected to meet next week to continue its expansion discussions, but the members are waiting to hear what the presidents decide — if anything — on Friday.
If there is movement towards an expanded playoff within the current contract, this meeting would give the commissioners an opportunity to discuss the details of the structure set by the presidents.
While sources indicated there is some confidence at the commissioner level that some type of expansion will pass, the future of the CFP remains at the unpredictable whims of a group of college presidents.
The CFP is entering the final four years of a 12-year contract with ESPN that expires following the 2025 season. In order to expand before the contract ends, there must be a unanimous decision by the presidents and chancellors.
Typically, the commissioners are tasked with figuring out the model, and if they can unanimously agree on it, they would present it to the board of managers for its approval, as the presidents and chancellors have the ultimate authority over the playoff.
Following 10 months of debates and often tense meetings filled with mistrust that played out publicly, the commissioners ended discussions with an 8-3 vote in February. The Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 voted against the original 12-team proposal that included the six highest-ranked conference champions, plus the next six highest-ranked teams.
By choosing to remain at four teams for four more years, the 10 FBS conferences and Notre Dame forfeited roughly $450 million in potential revenue. Since then, the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 have voiced public support for expansion.
In July, at Pac-12 media days, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff told ESPN that he thought it would be possible for the format to change before the contract ends.
“We’re closer than we’ve ever been to agreeing to a format,” he said. “The lack of agreement about a format held us back from doing it quickly, as opposed to slowly.
“I said it back when we originally met on this. Once you agree to a format, you can shoehorn that into the existing contract. If we agree on what it looks like past the existing contract, why wouldn’t you try and do it faster?”
While there is a sense that the process is moving very rapidly, sources indicated there is also concern that it might now be rushed, with too many unanswered questions remaining. If the presidents were to vote on a format, there is still debate among the commissioners about whether conference champions should automatically qualify for a spot, how revenue would be distributed and what the bowl system would look like — particularly the Rose Bowl.
American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said his conference is open to 12 or 16 teams, and that giving all 10 FBS conference champions automatic bids “would be ideal.”
“That would energize and really help college football become much healthier,” Aresco said. “It would make the championship game weekend enormous. We think a 16-team playoff is something we absolutely should consider, and if it included 10 automatics and six at-larges it would be great for college football.”
Further conference realignment also remains a factor, as sources have indicated that Big Ten expansion beyond the pending additions of USC and UCLA is possible.
The presidents also met virtually earlier this month and briefly discussed the possibility of restructuring how college football is governed, with one idea placing the FBS under the governance of the CFP.
“I think it’s very much alive and discussions are, as with the CFP, are continuing to move forward,” a source said.