Alabama Football: CFB Playoff group moves toward inevitable expansion

Alabama Football fans are not dissatisfied with the current CFB Playoff format of four teams. How can Crimson Tide fans complain after Nick Saban’s teams have been in every final four except one? That doesn’t mean there are not Alabama fans who prefer a larger format. There are good arguments why more is better for college football.

There are also counter-arguments that the four-team format does not need changing. Some have even suggested a return to a two-team field, like the BCS, would be better.

The CFB Playoff management committee announced a subgroup of four members will evaluate expansion proposals. Notre Dame Athletic Director, Jack Swarbrick, a member of the subgroup said discussions have considered 63 different options for change.

Those (options) included models of six, eight, 10, 12 and 16 teams, each with a variety of different scenarios.

The other three members of the subgroup are Big 12 Commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, Mountian West Commissioner Craig Thompson and (thankfully) the SEC’s Greg Sankey.

Every Group of Five coach, player, athletic director and fan wants an expanded Playoff. Thompson is, of course, a cheerleader for Playoff expansion. He said in January,

More and more people — not just fans, but the 10 commissioners and Notre Dame who have a vote in the matter are saying, it’s time to look at expansion. Does that mean two years from now? Does it mean after the current 12-year contract expires? I think it’s somewhere between there. I think we could accommodate expansion before the 12-year contract expires.

Thompson is also willing to state the obvious. An expansion of the CFB Playoff format is, as Thompson says, “inevitable.”

Beyond the Group of Five arguments that some Alabama football fans see as whiny more than substantive, other Power Fives are dissatisfied. The Pac-12 chafes at its minimal inclusion. Given the nose-dive the conference has taken in recent seasons, somehow the Pac-12 complaint is made with a straight face.

Bama Hammer readers probably know this author is not a fan of expansion. Other contributors to the site disagree and would welcome expansion.

Debate can continue, but it is no longer about ‘if’, only ‘when.’ That is clear by the makeup of the subgroup. The Group of Five had to be represented and Craig Thompson can’t be blamed for arguing for what his constituents want. The other subgroup members joining Greg Sankey and Thompson are the giveaway.

In February, Bama Hammer published a criticism of Bowlsby’s idea to change recruiting. It was titled Big 12 Commish Bob Bowlsby has a very bad idea. If his ideas for changing recruiting represent his skill for critical thinking, he should be removed from the subgroup. Notre Dame AD, Jack Swarbrick may have one of the sharpest minds in the nation. That doesn’t matter because the Fighting Irish football program lives off rules designed to benefit one team. Notre Dame’s performances on the big stage in 2013, 2019 and 2021 clearly show a pattern of the program being significantly overrated. Until the Irish fully join the ACC or another Power Five, they should be excluded from the Playoff.

Try as he likely will, Greg Sankey will not be able to lead the subgroup to a reasonable conclusion. Whatever comes out of the subgroup, 11 school presidents and chancellors will make the expansion decision. It will not happen soon, but the four-team format will be cast aside.

An expanded Playoff will generate more cash. It will build more excitement. Hopefully, it will never include a 1-seed Alabama Football team losing its starting QB in a meaningless win over a 16-seed – and a National Championship opportunity lost because the QB is finished for the season.