College Football Playoff to Expand to 12 Team Format in 2024
By: Ben Pawlak
Dec. 16, 2022
Photo Credit: Associated Press
On Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, the College Football Playoff (CFP) confirmed that it will expand the college football postseason from 4 teams to 12 teams in time for the 2024 and 2025 seasons.
The initial proposal for this change in format was made official when the Rose Bowl agreed to give up its traditional game time, the 2:00 p.m. slot on New Year's Day. As part of this agreement, rather than hosting a traditional Big Ten vs. Pac-12 bowl game, the Rose Bowl will instead host the CFP quarterfinals in 2024 and 2025. The complete transformation of the historic, illustrious Rose Bowl is a watershed moment for the sport of college football. The Rose Bowl dates back 101 years and is arguably the most iconic bowl game on the college football postseason calendar. With this being said, if the Rose Bowl's traditional format can be altered, anything across the college football landscape can be altered as well.
Originally, the proposed date for expansion of the College Football Playoff was the 2026 season. However, during negotiations, it became clear that implementing an expanded postseason before their current contract with ESPN expires at the end of 2025 was of critical importance to the CFP. This active contract grants ESPN exclusive media rights to serve as the sole broadcaster (and streaming service) of the brand new 12 team CFP in 2024 and 2025.
Another point of contention during these negotiations was figuring out how many teams should be included in an expanded CFP. According to the CFP board, they settled on 12 teams primarily due to scheduling logistics. It is easier to schedule games for a 12 team playoff than an 8 team or a 16 team playoff, since a 12 team playoff rewards each of the the top four seeds with a bye week while the other teams play their first round games. The board has set a target date for the first round of the CFP to begin on Saturday, Dec. 21st, 2024.
The format for the 12 team College Football Playoff is as follows:
The four highest ranked conference champions serve as the top four seeds in the College Football Playoff and earn a first round bye.
The other eight teams will play in the first round according to seed (5 seed vs. 12 seed, 6 seed vs. 11 seed, 7 seed vs. 10 seed, and 8 seed vs. 9 seed).
The higher seed in each matchup is the home team, and games are to be played either on their campus or at a neutral site of their choosing.
Here is what the 12 team College Football Playoff format would look like this season:
Photo Credit: The Sporting News
The reason behind this expansion is that it is financially beneficial for the sport of college football as a whole. As a result of more CFP spots, many regular season games which would typically be seen as meaningless would become very significant, driving up fan interest in college football. Rewarding the highest ranked conference championship winners with a first round bye in the CFP should make in-conference play during the season more meaningful and competitive. In particular, the stakes for conference championship week across the college football landscape will be higher than ever before.
In conclusion, CFP expansion is a profit maximizing endeavor for both sides of the negotiating table. From the perspective of ESPN, this expansion guarantees more CFP games, which will naturally result in greater revenue generation for the company due to their exclusive broadcasting rights. From the perspective of the CFP, if their radical postseason expansion is a resounding success in 2024 and 2025, the value of the CFP to college football will be sky high, just in time for the board to negotiate a lucrative new contract with ESPN.