No CFB Playoff expansion until 2026 season and why

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Not too many months ago, there was excitement about an expansion of the CFB Playoff to 12 teams. It was, in the parlance of many observers, close enough to an agreement to be defined as a done deal.

On Friday, Executive Director of the College Football Playoff, Bill Hancock announced the current format of a four team field will be maintained through the remaining seasons of its original playoff structure. That means nothing will change until the 2026 season.

Hancock added,

"… the Board expects the Management Committee to continue its discussions of a new format that would go into effect for the 2026-27 season.Even though the outcome did not lead to a recommendation for an early expansion before the end of the current 12-year contract, the discussions have been helpful and informative. I am sure they will serve as a useful guide for the Board of Managers and for the Management Committee as we determine what the Playoff will look like beginning in the 2026-2027 season."

Hancock’sExecutive Director position requires a positive spin. He may be the lone voice providing it. Others voices, inside the Board of Managers and Management Committee, will likely agree with the quick response of national media figures who label the expansion process a failure.

Back when the working group of Greg Sankey, Bob Bowlsby, Jack Swarbrick and Craig Thompson unveiled the 12-team format they labored over for a year – there was optimism. Few scoffed when it was said, that the change would not satisfy all individual parties, but in total, it was best for college football.

Ultimately, the ‘best for college football’ came out on the short end. We should not be surprised. College football and men’s basketball have become such valuable entertainment products, money drowns out other conversations.

CFB Playoff plans suffer from college football’s structure

Rather than focusing on institutional greed as the reason for the expansion plan’s failure, there is a different, less obvious reason. College football is structurally flawed. The NCAA is rightly assigned much of the blame, but college football has always been negatively influenced by self-interest, even before the NCAA was created.

Its structure is a constant obstacle to decision-making. The NFL has long been lauded for its smart, business decision to create and enforce parity in the league. When that NFL philosophy became a reality, could it have been accomplished if the NFL had 130 teams, as does college football’s FBS? In addition, what if 130 NFL teams had been represented by 10 lobbying groups whose primary purpose was to advance the self-interests of their ‘clients’.? Further what if the NFL had no Commissioner with enough authority to shape the decision-making direction of the 130+10 competing interests?

The belabored point is college football is structurally flawed. Because of that, doing what is in the ‘best interest’ of the game is impossible. That is especially true with the CFB Playoff due to the massive money involved.

Next. When we thought Playoff expansion was a done deal. dark

Optimism is a rightly favored default position. But optimism that college football, in its present form, can ‘fix’ itself might be naive.