In a plan that has been over a year in the making, the current four team college football playoff system will expand to 12 teams over the next few years.
While there are still a number of details to work out, the current four team playoff system will feature 12 teams by 2026.
College Football Playoff chairman of the board of managers and Mississippi State president Mark Keenum spoke of the announcement saying, “this was a very historic day for college football.” It was an unanimous decision by all eleven board members to expand the playoffs.
He added, “so our plans are to begin the 12-team format for sure beginning in the 2026 football season. However, we have asked our (conference) commissioners on the management committee to explore the possibility of us beginning the 12-team playoff format before the 2026 seasons, in either 2024 or 2025. We as members of the board recognize there’s some pretty substantial issues that have to be resolved.”
In what is almost a hybrid between the current system and the old system of selecting teams, the new format will include the top six ranked conference champions and six at large teams chosen by a committee. The top four ranked conference champions will earn a first round bid. The first round of the playoffs will take place on home fields with the remainder of the games as a part of the annual bowl game festivities.
The committee estimates that the system could generate some $2 billion in media rights. ESPN holds the current contract and will have the first crack at any new deals under the new format but the current contract ends in 2025 and the committee may decide to have an open market with multiple TV partners.
Among the list of items still to be ironed out are locations of games, dates and windows for television broadcasts, and how the new system will effect the regular season schedule. With teams leaving conferences and expanding others, it is becoming increasingly more difficult in deciding how conference games and non-conference rivalries should be scheduled. And then there is the issue of how to divide up all that money.