College Football Playoff board won't vote next week on proposed 12-team format

The College Football Playoff board of managers, which is comprised of 11 presidents and chancellors who have the authority to change the playoff, will not vote next week on a proposed 12-team format, further delaying any major changes to the current four-team field.

The board was originally scheduled to meet with the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick on Sept. 28 in Rosemont, Illinois -- the members' flights were booked. But after some of the commissioners raised numerous issues on a call last week and again at a meeting in Dallas on Wednesday, they opted to continue working before making a recommendation to the presidents for their approval.

The commissioners and Swarbrick will still meet in the Chicago area next week, but the presidents and chancellors will now join them by Zoom for all or part of the meeting.

"I think we can continue to keep them informed and they'll decide when they're prepared to vote," Swarbrick told ESPN on Wednesday. "It's ultimately their decision. We thought there remained some issues to be addressed and it would be important for us to address them before we make a recommendation or ask them to act."

The playoff is entering the eighth season of a 12-year contract that runs through the 2025 season, and it's still possible the format could change before the end of the contract.

If that were to happen, ESPN would have first rights for any new games, but if ESPN declined to buy them, the CFP could take them to the open market. Sources have said a vast majority of commissioners want to have multiple television partners, but the only way for that to happen within the current contract is for ESPN to agree to it.

CFP executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN on Wednesday "there's no rush" to determine the next move.

"We have time because if we want to change the format in 2024, we'd have a few months," Hancock said. "If we wanted to change it in 2026, we have a couple of years. There's not a set timeline. It will be up to the presidents to decide about that, but there's no rush."

The next scheduled meeting for the CFP's board of managers is currently in January, when the presidents and chancellors gather annually at the national championship game.

Sources with knowledge of the discussions have said there is some interest in an eight-team model, but there isn't unanimous support for it.

"The support for expansion is clear, which is great," Swarbrick said when asked if the eight-team format was garnering serious consideration. "I think the focus will be on the issues surrounding the 12-team model."

The obstacles haven't changed: There are concerns about the academic calendar, and the postseason occurring during December final exams, along with worries over the health of the student-athletes possibly playing 17 games -- a remote possibility, but still a scenario. The Rose Bowl's demand to sell its own television rights and to keep its game on Jan. 1 is a major sticking point. If the Rose Bowl hosts a semifinal or quarterfinal game, the CFP would own the media rights.

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said his league is still "strongly supportive" of the 12-team format.

"You still have a lot of issues you have to work through, and it takes some time," Aresco said. "I'm hoping we can ultimately get to 12. I think 12 is the right number because of the balance between the automatics and the at-larges. It's the one that has the best chance of satisfying the whole group, but that's my personal opinion."

The current proposal under consideration calls for the bracket each year to include the six highest-ranked conference champions, plus the six highest-ranked other teams as determined by the selection committee. No conference would qualify automatically, and there would be no limit on the number of participants from a conference.

The four highest-ranked conference champions would be seeded one through four and each would receive a first-round bye, while teams seeded five through 12 would play each other in the first round on the home field of the higher-ranked team. Under the proposal, the quarterfinals and semifinals would be played in bowl games. The championship game would continue to be at a neutral site, as under the current format.

Speedbumps developed this summer following the decisions of Oklahoma and Texas to join the SEC, as commissioner Greg Sankey was a member of the CFP's four-person working group that ultimately concluded the 12-team model was the best option.

The collegiate landscape has shifted significantly since June, when the presidents and commissioners last met to discuss the 12-team format, which at the time had garnered more widespread support.

"A 12-team format allows the six best conference champions access to the national championship playoff," Sankey told ESPN in a recent interview. "It also allows the six best remaining teams that are not conference champions that access.

"And while we might long-term look and say four can continue to work, for us to have a healthy national sport, a national championship, I remain convinced there's a lot of wisdom around the 12-team approach. I look forward to others framing their own ideas and the discussion that will take place, but I've not been in the position of saying, 'Hey, here's when I think this change will happen, nor here's when this decision will be made.'"