CFP Playoff field destined to increase quickly

Sep 7, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco flips a coin prior to the start of the game between the Temple Owls and the Houston Cougars. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 7, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco flips a coin prior to the start of the game between the Temple Owls and the Houston Cougars. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

By Frank Cooney,

Discussions on the revised College Football Playoffs are starting to sound like an auction.

"We have 12, do I hear 14?"

With the CFP expanding to 12 teams next year, we should expect 14 teams to be on the horizon, as soon as 2026.

The SEC and that conference nominally referred to as the Big 10 now total 34 teams, and darned good ones. This will give The Big Two leverage to change the landscape to best fit their needs — meaning that if they don't like the state of affairs, they can go play football in a sandlot of their choosing and stage their own lucrative postseason tournament.

"Fourteen teams was discussed — it is a possibility," American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco told On3 after the meetings. "You have some large conferences with a lot of members, and there are a lot of marquee teams."

As Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark added, "Now it is time to explore it."

The fact that CFP stakeholders broached the possibility of expanding to 14 teams before anyone sees what the 12-team tournament even looks like over the next two years reveals a penchant for further expansion in this unprecedented time of industry disruption.

Securing increased access to the tournament — specifically through multiple automatic qualifying berths — is viewed as a point of emphasis for the Power Two, which is likely to land the majority of CFP berths in a given year. 

But that's not the only issue at play.

Bill Hancock, the CFP's executive director, stressed that almost everything is nailed down for the tournament over the next two years, except for a rights deal for the additional inventory. But for 2026 and beyond, the event is largely a blank slate. 

In addition to addressing the size of the bracket, CFP leaders need to hammer out voting rights  and isn't it logical that the voting will be weighted in favor of the Power Two? You betchya.

Jim Phillips, the ACC commissioner, said there is "no question" a sense of urgency is already here. That's particularly true in light of reports that ESPN may at some point become impatient that the College Football Playoff can't get its house in order and consider pulling the long-term-rights deal that The Athletic detailed is on the table.

Commissioner Tony Petitti, whose Big Ten could benefit from further changes, called the nearly nine-hour meeting the most productive CFP meeting he's attended.

But he also underscored the need to quicken the pace of progress, saying, "Let's keep working even faster."

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