College Football Triples Number of Playoff Teams


The College Football Playoff will involve 12 teams, up from the current four, no later than 2026, the organization announced Friday. “This is an historic and exciting day for college football,” Mark Keenum, the president of Mississippi State and chairman of the organization’s board of managers, said in a statement, per ESPN. “More teams, more participation and more excitement are good for our fans, alumni, and student-athletes.” The sport’s commissioners are being asked to try to put the expansion in place as soon as 2024.

Playoff spots will go to the six highest-ranked conference champions, with the top four of those receiving byes in the first round. The other half of the field will be at-large teams, per USA Today. First-round games will be played on the home field of the team that’s ranked higher. The quarterfinals and semifinals will rotate among bowl games, and the championship game will be played at a neutral site, as it is now. The four-team format has been in place since 2014.

Television rights could grow to about $695 million if the expansion takes place in time for the 2024 season, per the New York Times. The existing deal with ESPN, which expires after the 2025 season, pays about $470 million a year. The next TV contract could for nearly $2 billion a year, analysts said, and involve multiple broadcast outlets. That would be the richest TV deal in college sports; basketball’s March Madness is projected to start averaging about $1.1 billion per year before the decade is out. Keenum acknowledged the financial opportunity but said that wasn’t the driver in abandoning the four-team limit. “What motivated the president—and me as well—was that we need to have some opportunity for more participation of teams in our nation’s national championship tournament,” he said. (Read more college football playoff stories.)