North Carolina coach Mack Brown said Thursday that during a team discussion about the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff, his players were against the format and preferred six to eight teams.
During a wide-ranging Zoom with reporters, Brown mentioned that ACC commissioner Jim Phillips had asked all coaches to get feedback from players about playoff expansion. Last month, the CFP board of managers authorized commissioners to move forward with expanding from four to 12 teams, with an implementation date to be determined.
North Carolina linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel told ESPN that nobody on the team raised their hand in favor of a 12-team playoff. He said a few players preferred to stay at four, while the majority was split between six and eight teams.
"I feel like 12 teams is too many games in a season for players who want to play long-term football," Gemmel said in a phone interview. "Sixteen, 17 games in a season is a lot of wear and tear on the body, especially for guys who don't come out when they're playing."
Players also felt strongly that conference champions should get an automatic spot, in addition to the top Group of 5 champion. Under the proposed 12-team format, there would be no automatic bids. In addition, Brown said some players wondered whether there were 12 teams good enough to win the national championship.
"Because they wanted the playoffs to be about who is good enough to win all the games or win the national championship, not just have a bunch of teams involved," Brown said.
Interestingly, North Carolina might have benefited from a 12-team format last season. The Tar Heels finished the regular season 8-3 and received a spot in a New Year's Six game against Texas A&M in the Capital One Orange Bowl after ranking No. 13 in the final CFP standings. There is little doubt they would most definitely have been in the discussion to take the final spot.
"Just talking with some guys on the team, when we let Virginia and Florida State slip away you can't get those games back," Gemmel said. "I don't feel like we deserve to be in the playoff if you lose two games like that during the season."
Phillips said in a statement last month after the board of managers approved moving forward with expansion that the league looked forward to having student-athletes participate in the discussions about what is best for postseason college football.
Brown lamented the fact that the expansion discussion and subsequent decision moved as quickly as it did, without getting as much input as possible from all the stakeholders. The CFP management committee is currently going through a summer review with bowl games and ESPN to determine the feasibility of the 12-team plan. The board is next scheduled to meet in September.
"I said that we need more inclusion in my opinion with athletes that are playing, and we need more inclusion from the coaches that are coaching it, so the voice needs to be heard," Brown said. "Decisions aren't finalized yet, but I did think it was important our commissioner wanted reactions from our players. We're just trying to make sure that everybody understands what the thoughts of everybody are when we go into such a huge jump from four to 12, instead of just having it happen."
Gemmel added that while playoff expansion will open the field to more teams, he and his teammates have only one goal in mind: Win every game and become ACC champions.
"It's giving us a better opportunity to get in the playoffs, but that's not really our cause right now," Gemmel said. "We're trying to win every football game and win the ACC championship, so we want to be top four regardless going into the College Football Playoffs. We thought between the 12, 6 and 8, maybe we slip a game here and there, but everybody's thoughts on the team is we're winning every game, and we're winning the ACC championship. Why worry about if we come in 12th place, we're in the playoff? We're not thinking about that. We're thinking about being the No. 1 team in the nation. That's a good thing."