MORGANTOWN — After two years of leak free conversations behind closed doors where the movers and shakers of college football saw their opinions changed over and over, the College Football Playoff Working Group has recommended that the four-game playoff be scrapped and replaced with a 12-team playoff.
This was the first step in a process that will not conclude until September, at the earliest, according to Bill Hancock, executive director of the CFP. It could not start before the 2022 season.
The proposal was made on Thursday to the full CFP management committee, which will take it up at a meeting later in June.
The report also recommends that the bowl games continue.
The group passed over an eight-team playoff format that many outside the group seemed to favor and a 16-team format that seemed too unwieldy to many.
The proposal has the four highest-ranked conference champions being seeded one through four, with each receiving a first-round bye.
Notre Dame, which is not in a conference but is a traditional power, has agreed to being left out of the byes.
“I look forward to never again hearing how we play one less game,” said Jack Swarbrick, jokingly about the criticism the school took by not having to play a conference championship game to previously get into the playoffs.
Seriously, though, Swarbrick said Notre Dame agreed to do something to even the field.
“I do think it’s helpful to us to say Alabama puts its position at risk in its title game, and Oklahoma did in the conference title game. This puts our position at risk in the first game of the playoffs,” he said.
In the first round of games, which will use the tradition format of 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, etc., the highest ranked teams will play on their home fields.
After that the sites will be neutral, which will lead to much discussion as the process moves on that the highest seeded teams play no home games, which will not make the home fans happy in what are traditionally the most rabid of football arenas.
The idea, of course, was to create a playoff format open to more competitors.
“Seventy-eight percent of the opportunities have gone to five schools under the current system,” Swarbrick said.
The idea with more teams qualifying is to magnify, not minimize, the regular season. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said that it would make October and November more important as more teams will be in competition for playoff spots.
“The question was how to make something that is good and well respected better,” Bowlsby said. “It isn’t the absence of controversy, it’s things like what makes the regular season better. As you see more young people opt out of the postseason experience, you wonder if there will be as much of that with those going on to fight for a national championship.”
One of the top considerations was that there would be quarterfinal games played on Jan. 1 – or Jan. 2 when Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday.
College football is trying to reclaim New Year’s Day as its own.
“This gives us an opportunity to reassert ownership of New Year’s Eve and now New Year’s Day, which has such a big part of college football history and tradition,” said Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson.
The semifinals and championship dates are to be worked out, but they recommend that the semifinals not be played as a doubleheader.
There is still much to talk about with the format, but one expects the 12-team approach to be approved after two years of discussion in which all of the members of the committee admit changing their positions.
“We all know we are going through a transformational time in college sports,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey.
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