IRVING, Texas -- The College Football Playoff management committee on Thursday began working toward implementing a 12-team playoff as early as the 2024 season, but a sense of progress and congeniality was also tempered by a hastened timeline it hopes to meet this fall.
"There's a focus on the timetable," American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said. "Our minds are very concentrated because we know we've got to get this done if it's going to happen. And I think the goal would be to make it happen, but who knows."
The 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick gathered in a small meeting room at the DFW airport for about 4½ hours, their first discussions since the 11 presidents and chancellors who control the playoff voted unanimously last week in favor of expanding the field to 12 teams in 2026. The CFP's board of managers strongly urged the commissioners, who could not agree on a format since the original proposal was announced in June 2021, to get it done sooner if possible.
"I even feel better coming out of the meeting than I did going into it, and I was positive going into the meeting," said Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren. "But we have a lot of experienced people and have common goals and it was a very productive meeting. So I'm very pleased where we are and we have a lot of work to do, though. We have a lot to get done."
CFP executive director Bill Hancock said that while there's not an exact deadline, they hope to have an answer this fall. The current contract runs through the 2025 season, and the CFP in mid-August announced Atlanta will host the national championship game in 2025, followed by Miami in January 2026.
While CFP officials have laid out the obstacles to such a sudden move -- venues, hotels and television contracts -- there is an estimated $450 million in gross revenue if the commissioners can implement the new format for the final two seasons.
ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said they discussed every year -- 2024, 2025 and 2026 -- in Thursday's meeting, but that he's "optimistic."
"We've had four or five really good calls in a row," Phillips said. "This hasn't been something where we've been off course, so that means we're all trying to figure out how to do this thing. So there's lots of energy in the room. There's lots of optimism, but it's the details. The devil's in the details and the work that has to be done."
The commissioners and Swarbrick are scheduled to meet again this month at the Big Ten offices in Rosemont, Illinois. When asked how confident he is about a 12-team field for 2024, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said, "there's several more steps."
"There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of pieces," Thompson said. "... So it won't be by lack of effort, whatever happens."
The rankings of the teams will continue to be determined by the CFP selection committee, which will remain largely unchanged. The four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded one through four with each receiving a first-round bye. Teams seeded five through 12 will play each other in the first round on either the second or third weekend of December. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played in bowl games on a rotating basis, and the championship game will be at a neutral site, as under the current four-team format.
On Saturday, before Georgia and Oregon kicked off the season in Atlanta, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey expressed doubts about the debut of a 12-team playoff before the 2026 season.
Following the meetings Thursday, he acknowledged it's a possibility.
"A lot of work to do," Sankey said, "but the opportunity is there."