While continuing to reiterate its support for the current four-team format, the College Football Playoff management committee this week was presented with possibilities for future expansion, including options ranging from six to 16 teams, the CFP announced on Friday after two days of virtual meetings.
A working group within the CFP management committee, which comprises the 10 FBS commissioners plus Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, discussed "some 63 possibilities for change," according to a news release from the CFP. Those included models of six, eight, 10, 12 and 16 teams, each with a variety of different scenarios.
CFP executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN that nothing is imminent.
"There will not be a new format this season or next season," Hancock said. "The timetable is certainly an important detail, but it hasn't been determined yet. It's too soon to predict the timing, but even if the board decides to alter the format, it may well not occur until after the current agreement has expired, which isn't until after the 2025 season."
The CFP has set up a working group of four management committee members -- Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and Notre Dame's Swarbrick. They are expected to make a report to the entire management committee about the future format at the CFP's next meeting, which could be this summer. If there is a model the entire group supports, the committee will present it to the CFP board of managers, who have the ultimate authority over the playoff format.
For the playoff to change, those 11 presidents and chancellors would have to approve it. The CFP is entering its eighth season of a 12-year contractual agreement. All parties involved would have to unanimously agree to change the contract before it expires.
"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,'" Thompson told ESPN in January. "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 -- one man's opinion."
While Thompson told ESPN he thinks expansion is "inevitable," possibly no commissioner has been more publicly supportive of it than American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco.
"I think it has to happen because there's just too much dissatisfaction with the current system," he said. "Ultimately, I think there will be support for it because not only would the [Group of 5] obviously want it, but clearly there are [Power 5] guys being left out who would like a shot."
The Pac-12 champion has been left out five times in seven seasons, with Oregon and Washington the only teams to represent the conference, with a 1-2 record and no national titles. Before the Pac-12 season began in November, commissioner Larry Scott suggested expanding the field to eight teams this season, given the inconsistent scheduling caused by the pandemic. Scott, who announced he will leave his role in June, is still a part of the CFP management committee. His replacement has yet to be determined but will be an influential voice in the discussions, along with another first-year commissioner, the ACC's Jim Phillips.
"There will not be a new format this season or next season ... even if the board decides to alter the format, it may well not occur until after the current agreement has expired, which isn't until after the 2025 season." Bill Hancock, CFP executive director
Colorado chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said that the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors don't want college football to become a two-semester sport but that he "likes the idea" of having the league's new commissioner explore the possibilities.
"I'd really like to see the pros and cons and weigh those before making a final decision," DiStefano said, "but I do think that expansion is probably going to happen in the near future."
Hancock also said the 2021 playoff in Indianapolis will resume more of a normal look after a season in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Stadium capacities will be determined in the fall by the CFP, along with health and safety officials in the host city.
"We are planning to have marching bands, cheerleaders, mascots and the rest of the wonderful traditions at the CFP games," Hancock said in a prepared statement. "We are optimistic, but, of course, everything will depend on the circumstances this fall."
This year's CFP semifinal games will be at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl and Capital One Orange Bowl.