A decade after BCS conference commissioners put the wheels in motion for the College Football Playoff, the sport’s postseason competition is getting an expansion.
The College Football Playoff Board of Managers voted unanimously on Friday to expand the four-team playoff to a 12-team format. This change has been in discussions for years, but work officially began on the change in 2021 when the board reviewed a proposal for such an expansion.
“This is an historic and exciting day for college football,” said Mark Keenum, the President of Mississippi State and the chairman of the CFP Board of Managers. “More teams, more participation and more excitement are good for our fans, alumni, and student-athletes. I’m grateful to my colleagues on the board for their thoughtful approach to this issue and for their resolve to get expansion across the goal line and for the extensive work of the Management Committee that made this decision possible.”
The expanded playoff will go into effect in the 2026 college football season, but the board has tasked the 10 conference commissioners plus Notre Dame’s Director of Athletics (a group dubbed the College Football Playoff Board of Managers) with examining the possibility of starting the expansion as early as 2024. WVU president Gordon Gee represents the Big 12 on the Board of Managers.
“This is a great day for college football,” said Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark. “The expanded access to the CFP will increase fan interest and puts an even greater emphasis on the regular season. I look forward to the Big 12’s participation in the Playoff.”
The 12-team playoff will be made up of the six highest-ranked teams in the CFP rankings, plus the six-highest non-champion teams in the poll. The selection committee will remain “substantially unchanged,” but the Management Committee will be able to modify the selection protocol as required by the change to the playoff structure.
The four first-round byes will go to the four highest-ranked conference champions, while the first round will be played either on the campus of the higher-seeded team or at a venue designated by said team. The Management Committee will determine whether the first round will be played on the second or third weekend of December, depending on which best accommodates the formats and the participants. At least 12 games will stand between the conference championship games and the first round.
Unlike the first round, which will not have any title or presenting sponsors, the four quarterfinal and two Playoff Semifinal games would be played in bowls on a rotating basis, subject to agreements with the bowls.
The four highest conference-winning teams will be assigned bowls, then the opponent from the first-round game winners will be assigned by the selection committee. The higher seeds will receive preferential placement in the Semifinal.
“I’m very pleased we were able to get this accomplished and I look forward to expansion taking place,” Keenum said. “The four-team playoff has been highly popular and successful. I believe this new format will be even more popular and successful.”