The College Football Playoff’s board of managers voted Friday to expand the CFP to 12 teams in 2026, but is encouraging the sport’s commissioners to try to implement it as soon as 2024, multiple sources told ESPN.
The 11 presidents and chancellors comprising the board approved the original 12-team model, which includes the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large teams. The 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick will meet next week in Dallas to figure out the details.
The CFP board held a 2 p.m. ET conference call and the vote was unanimous, a source told ESPN. The major holdup to the 12-team model had been specific objections from the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12. After the thunderbolt of realignment this summer with USC and UCLA committing to the Big Ten and that conference signing a historic television deal, the issues from those leagues began to fade into the background.
The 12-team model is expected to hold the same basic architecture of the playoff model put together by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Swarbrick, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson and former Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
That proposal had the four highest-ranked conference champions as the top four seeds with each receiving a first-round bye. Teams seeded five through 12 would play each other in the first round on the home field of the higher-ranked team. The quarterfinals and semifinals would then be played in bowl games and the championship game at a neutral site, as under the current format.
The plan had originally been floated publicly in June 2021 but got bogged down by conference politics. In February, the CFP announced it would not be expanding in the current contract, which expires after the 2025 season.
The shifting landscape of college sports appeared to change some opinions. And two weeks ago the CFP board held an unannounced call, discussing expansion and the possibility of a 12-team playoff starting amid the structure of the current contract.
That manifested itself Friday afternoon, a landmark day in the sport, on the cusp of the formal start of the football season Saturday.
It may take weeks or months to work out the possibility of playing a 12-team playoff in 2024 or 2025. While CFP officials have laid out the obstacles to such a sudden move — venues, hotels and television contracts — money can loom as a powerful motivator for change.