EXPLAINER: How will College Football Playoff expansion work?

Dec 1, 2022, 2:55 AM | Updated: Dec 2, 2022, 8:45 am

FILE - The national championship trophy is seen before a new conference for the NCAA college footba...

FILE - The national championship trophy is seen before a new conference for the NCAA college football playoff championship game between Clemson and Alabama, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The College Football Playoff announced Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, it will expand to a 12-team event, starting in 2024, finally completing an 18-month process that was fraught with delays and disagreements.The announcement comes a day after the Rose Bowl agreed to amend its contract for the 2024 and '25 seasons, the last hurdle CFP officials needed cleared to triple the size of what is now a four-team format.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

The College Football Playoff will include 12 teams, starting with the 2024 season.

An expansion plan that was crafted for two years and haggled over for another 18 months finally cleared all the obstacles needed to go from idea to reality.

The CFP announced Thursday that the current four-team system would be tripling in size.

There are still a few more details to work out, like exact dates of some of the games, but college football is two years away from another dramatic change to its postseason.


The 10 conferences that play major college football also run the College Football Playoff. Essentially, the conferences agreed to add eight more teams to the system that has been used to determine a champion since 2014.

There were plenty of delays and disagreements — some downright petty — on the way to consensus.

Flipping the format to 12 with a couple years still left on the original 12-year media rights contract with ESPN that expires after the 2025-26 season required rescheduling of games and unspooling of bowl contracts.

But now it’s done.


The conferences and schools that share the hundreds of millions of dollars of annual revenue generated currently by the playoff will now be making even more.

Expanding two years before the end of the current contract with ESPN is expected to bring in an estimated $450 million in additional gross revenue.

“ESPN has the opportunity to broadcast these games,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said. “And we’re just into this today, of course, and so we don’t know yet whether they will exercise their rights. We’re just going to have to wait and see.”

That’s unlikely to be a problem.

Hancock said the current revenue distribution plan will “philosophically” remain the same.

Last year, each Power Five conference received $74 million. The other five Bowl Subdivision conferences shared $95 million. Notre Dame received $3.55 million, and the other six FBS independents shared $1.88 million.

Currently, conferences of teams that make the CFP earn a $6 million bonus.

All of those figures will go up.


Everybody involved with the College Football Playoff has expressed a desire to explore having multiple television partners in the next deal, not just ESPN.

ESPN will no doubt still want in. Expect Fox to also bid, and maybe others like NBC, which just added the Big Ten to its lineup that includes Notre Dame.

One projection had the next CFP media rights deal reaching $2 billion annually.


The first round of the playoff in 2024 will take place on campus sites matching teams seeded 5-12 the week ending Saturday, Dec. 21. Exact dates are still to be determined.

The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played in the bowls that have been rotating as hosts of the semifinals in the current format: Rose, Sugar, Orange, Peach, Cotton and Fiesta.

The championship game for the 2024 season will be played Jan. 20, 2025, in Atlanta.

A similar schedule will be used for the 2025 season, with a title game to be played Jan. 19, 2026, in Miami Gardens, Florida.


The model is referred to as six and six. The six highest ranked conference champions get a spot, with the four highest ranked champs earning first-round byes.

A selection committee will also pick the six best at-large teams, chosen regardless of conference.

To get an idea of what it would look like, using the latest CFP rankings and assuming the current conference leaders win out, Georgia, Michigan, TCU and USC would be the top-four seeds.

Clemson and Tulane would also make it as champions of their conferences.

The at-large selections would be Ohio State, Alabama, Tennessee, Penn State, Kansas State and Utah.

First-round matchups would be Tulane at Ohio State; Utah at Alabama; Kansas State at Tennessee and Clemson at Penn State.


Hancock was jokingly asked when the playoff would expand to 16. He laughed off the question, but he did make an important point.

The first two seasons of the 12-team format in 2024 and ’25 will be like a test drive. Thing could look different when new contracts are set for 2026 and beyond. Maybe more games will be played on campus and fewer in neutral site bowl games.

But Hancock said university presidents and chancellors who oversee the playoff and have final say in what it will look like are firmly behind the number of teams and the composition of the field.

“Every one is solid on 12, six, six and there hasn’t been any conversation about changing that,” Hancock said. “I would be stunned if that were changed.”

It would also be stunning if the next playoff contract extends as far out as the last one, so figure the next round of expansion talk is at least six years away.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com


More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

7 months ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

7 months ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

7 months ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

7 months ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

7 months ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

7 months ago

EXPLAINER: How will College Football Playoff expansion work?