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College Football Playoff expansion not happening until at least 2026

The College Football Playoff will not be expanding until its initial 12-year contract with ESPN expires after the 2025 college season.

For those hoping for College Football Playoff expansion, they are going to have to wait until 2026.

The playoff will not expand for the duration of the 12-year contract, which is set to expire after the 2025 campaign. For expansion to have happened, all 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick needed to approve expansion unanimously.

Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, said the following in a release:

“The Board of Managers has accepted a recommendation from the Management Committee to continue the current four-team playoff for the next four years, as called for in the CFP’s original 12-year plan. At the same time, the Board expects the Management Committee to continue its discussions of a new format that would go into effect for the 2026-27 season.

“Even though the outcome did not lead to a recommendation for an early expansion before the end of the current 12-year contract, the discussions have been helpful and informative. I am sure they will serve as a useful guide for the Board of Managers and for the Management Committee as we determine what the Playoff will look like beginning in the 2026-2027 season.”

Major hold-ups when it comes to expansion are ACC commissioner Jim Phillips flat-out not wanting it, the Pac-12 wanting to maintain its conference tie-in to the Rose Bowl Game, as well as the debate over automatic qualifiers and what conferences will be privy to that. Either way, this was way too messy for all parties involved to have reached a resolution of this important matter.

The question now is what does this mean for college football for the next four seasons?

College Football Playoff will not expand until 2026 at the earliest

There are winners and losers in this College Football Playoff expansion news. The winners are the Big Ten, the SEC, the ACC, Notre Dame and ESPN. The SEC wins no matter the outcome, and to some degree, the same can be said for the Big Ten. These are the two most important conferences. It is impossible to have a playoff without the SEC, and very hard without the Big Ten.

The ACC wins because while it did not get a team into the playoff last year, it had one team getting in each of the first seven installments of the playoff. This league has been incredibly top-heavy, thanks to the tail-end of the Jimbo Fisher era at Florida State and the dynastic run Clemson is on under Dabo Swinney. In short, the ACC is not strong enough to get two teams in playoff expansion.

Notre Dame wins because all the Fighting Irish have to do is go 12-0 during the regular season and will have a shot of getting into the four-team field. Had expansion been implemented, the Irish would have never been able to be a top-four seed, as those bids would have been reserved for conference champions. As long as Notre Dame remains independent, they will never win one.

And for ESPN, the broadcasting company has exclusive media rights to broadcast the College Football Playoff in its entirely, as well as the four other bowls comprising the New Year’s Six in a given year. Because no other broadcasting company can bid in these postseason games, the price remains at a discount for ESPN. They have four more years before other parties can get involved.

As for the losers, those would be the Big 12, the Pac-12, the Group of Five and all other major broadcasting entities. The Big 12 are losing Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC. While they are adding four strong Group of Five brands in BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF in a few years, the Big 12 loses its national luster with Oklahoma and Texas departing to the SEC. The league has to adjust.

The Pac-12 loses because unless Oregon or USC can go 12-0 or maybe even 11-1, the conference is not strong enough to get a team in. Even if a team like Utah goes 11-1, it may not have the national pulling power of a larger brand in the Big Ten or SEC to keep one of those teams out of the playoff. The Group of Five is not guaranteed a spot and broadcasting companies have to wait.

The only hope for the College Football Playoff to resonate nationally now before expansion talks start up again is if Lincoln Riley can get the USC Trojans to return to glory in a few seasons.

For more NCAA football news, analysis, opinion and unique coverage by FanSided, including Heisman Trophy and College Football Playoff rankings, be sure to bookmark these pages.


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