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College Football Playoff expansion a necessary, overdue decision

It had to happen for the health of the sport. 

It had to happen to stop the SEC and Big Ten — the soon-to-be super conferences — from monopolizing the College Football Playoff. 

It had to happen to prevent the rest of college football from becoming irrelevant. 

It was a no-brainer, really, a decision that made too much sense not to happen, even if it took longer than it should have. The news that the playoff will be expanding to 12 teams, after the board of managers, which is composed of 11 FBS presidents and chancellors, unanimously agreed to a new format on a Friday conference call, is great news for college football. 

It is particularly welcome since it will include the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large berths of the next six-highest ranked teams and it could happen as soon as 2024, the playoff announced on Friday. The top four seeds will get byes and the first round will be hosted by the higher-seeded teams on the second or third weekend of December, adding a new and exciting element to the playoff. Conference championship games will remain to determine league winners. 

“It was time for us to make a decision,” said CFP board chair Mark Keenum, the Mississippi State president. “This is where we think college football needs to be headed to determine our champion.” 

College Football Playoff trophy
The College Football Playoff announced on Friday a decision to expand in the near future.
Getty Images

The playoff’s management committee will meet next week to hammer out further details, and take a deeper look into how feasible it is to have the expanded playoff before the contract on the current format is up, after the 2025 season. The quarterfinals will be played at bowl sites, though it is uncertain if they will also host the semifinals. The championship game will continue to be played at a neutral site. 

College football already had become too inclusive and predictable, with just five different schools reaching the title game in the last seven years and 13 programs playing for it all in the four-team format’s eight-year history. And with USC and UCLA set to join the Big Ten in 2024 and Oklahoma and Texas becoming part of the SEC the following year (four major brands leaving their respective conferences), there was a growing concern that the rest of the country wouldn’t matter if the playoff remained status quo. 

The expansion solves that problem. It allows for everyone else to be playing for something. It adds interest and eyeballs. In time, it could even the playing field somewhat and balance out recruiting. For a sport that has seen a trend of dwindling attendance in recent years — according to the NCAA, college football’s 130 FBS teams averaged 39,848 fans per game, the fewest since 1981 — it could provide a jolt. 

The new format is similar to one that a playoff working group presented last June. Of course, the playoff’s management committee wasn’t able to get on the same page then for a variety of self-interest reasons, and that proposal fell apart. But a source said that USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten, and the Big Ten inking a television deal that will pay it up to $1.2 billion per year through 2030, started a domino effect. It created “renewed motivation,” the source said, for an expanded playoff. 

“It provides good access for a broader array of teams and conferences, which I think is the most important thing right now,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco told The Post. “You want to make sure that the consolidation of teams [in the SEC and Big Ten] doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity for everyone else.” 

The conferences other than the SEC and Big Ten needed to have access to the playoff. The SEC and Big Ten, with so many top programs now in the two powerful leagues, liked the idea of so many at-large bids. However it happened, expansion — much, much-needed expansion — is upon us. 

The people making the decisions saw the light at last. Better late than never.

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