An open college football game seems unlikely to exist

The rubber stamps were still packed on Tuesday.

University leaders, once expected to use them to expand College football tournament, canceled their trip to a Hilton near Chicago. Instead, after the top leagues spent the summer knocking each other out, the future of the playoffs still shifted on the very day some had hoped would include the college sports equivalent of a signed treaty.

It is difficult to predict how long the playoff trend will remain volatile. However, the hunch of many executives is that the most likely outcome is the one they have been contemplating for months: expansion, ultimately.

As for the collegiate sports that may emerge from time to time, tribalism could persist in the industry for some time. Last year, Power 5 conferences gave a brief analysis of whether football should be played during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the debate over extending the money-printing knockout from its four-team format is sparking more views and a change of shape as college football looks toward an even more competitive future. richer.

There is no guarantee of a deal, and in an interview on Tuesday, Bill Hancock, the playoff’s chief executive, said the debate was “very complicated” and the stakes were “too important” to rush into anything”. But history and math show that this altercation could eventually come down as a not-so-smooth race towards an accord with more football and more money, even if there are lingering concerns. long on the health and time needs of athletes.

There has been controversy about everything from automatic qualifiers to where the knockouts should be played. Executives considered at least 63 different scenarios, with much of the recent focus on a 12-team format that would attract hundreds of millions of dollars more in television money each year.

“I don’t think there was a conference that said it wasn’t in favor of expansion; The question is expanding to what and what problem does it solve,” said Mike Aresco, commissioner of the American Athletics Conference, who for 2021 is seventh-placed Cincinnati.

“Can you finish at four and not expand?” he added. “It could happen, but I think there’s still momentum.”

Aresco’s League, will Loss of Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston to the Big 12 Conference before the end of 2024, all the more reason to be hopeful. Although Hancock has always warned that expansion is uncertain, many other executives have spent weeks suggesting the playoff playoff is going in a light-hearted 12-team format.

Then came a surprise round of conference reorganization, which included the planned activities of Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12 to the Southeast Conference in July 2025, and all the way. However, many executives believe that three factors – cash, competition and calendar – tilt the odds for the playoff playing field to increase this decade.

The hardest and most obvious, of course, is rooted in arithmetic: The 12-team format will almost certainly make College football tournament a more powerful financial force than the NCAA’s Division I men’s basketball. Although the NCAA is not so bound that it has a former director of the Pentagon, Robert M. Gates, leading an effort rewrite its constitution, it is still scheduled to gross more than $870 million from television rights tied to next season’s men’s basketball tournament.

ESPN’s existing college football deal, a 12-year deal for more than $5.6 billion, that ends after the 2025 season, includes three playoff games per season. Executives have calculated that a renewed playoff with 12 teams and 11 games a season would fetch more than $1 billion in television rights each year. Navigate, a sports business consulting firm, went as far as predicting that such an expanded format would bring the playoffs more than 2 billion dollars in annual income, including ticket sales and sponsorships.

There is an element of competition on the field in the minds of sports leaders.

Only 11 colleges have appeared in the knockout round since it replaced the Rugby Series Championship in the 2014 season, and most conventions are either always or frequently absent from the biggest games. of college football. No teams from the so-called Group of 5 leagues – American, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference and Sun Belt – appeared in the knockouts.

“Having only four teams in the CFP is a broken system,” George Kliavkoff, the first-year Pac-12 commissioner, said in an interview this month at Ohio Stadium, hours earlier. Oregon upsets Ohio State, played in the national title game last season after winning the Big Ten championship.

“It’s just the way it’s set up, it’s designed – and I don’t think it’s intentional or malicious – but it’s designed for the rich to get richer,” said Kliavkoff, who reserved the expansion proposal. went public in June, adding that helped slow its approval process. “If you’re offered a CFP in the first few years, it’s easier to get hired, it’s easier to get back to CFP, it’s easier to get hired, and it’s a big deal. self-fulfilling prophecy.”

(Oregon, currently 3rd in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, made it to his first playoff championship game, but a Pac-12 team hasn’t even made it to the semifinals since the 2016 season.)

But Kliavkoff is right that a lot of fans complain about constantly seeing the same teams, even when the closest Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney could come to this season’s playoffs as a pregnant commentator. And at the end of the day, conferences are the beginning of marketing and event planning aimed at meeting focus groups and larger TV ratings prospects.

Executives also have time with them to strategize and ease their feelings of vulnerability and get themselves back on the surf path they envisioned in June. The format change goes into effect. after the end of the agreement with ESPN can be done one or two years from now; The deadline is still a few months away even if the playoff leaders want a change for the 2024 season, which is now believed to be the earliest a new system will work.

Indeed, depending on the metric and rotator, the power brokers could still act faster than they did in 2012 to replace the BCS That’s the commissioners, many of whom are now retired. retired when their successors worked at the negotiating table, spent six months officially bickering over what had become the playoffs.

The playoffs are very similar in terms of everyone currently looking to expand. An open college football game seems unlikely to exist

Dustin Huang

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