Questions Linger Following Announcement of 12-Team CFP | Athletic Business

Questions Linger Following Announcement of 12-Team CFP

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The will-they-or-won't-they wait is over regarding College Football Playoff expansion, a debate that has lasted nearly as long as the CFP has existed (eight years), but questions remain.

First off, when? With Friday's announcement came reports that the new format could take effect as early as 2024, but as ESPN reported, Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey says that's not likely.

ESPN's Mark Schlabach wrote that College Football Playoff's board of managers unanimously voted to expand the playoff to 12 teams starting in 2026, but the 11 presidents and chancellors who make up the board encouraged the sport's commissioners to try to implement the expanded format as soon as 2024.

The 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick are scheduled to meet Thursday in Irving, Texas, to start discussions on potentially implementing the format early.

Sankey, who presides over the conference that boasts the most CFP appearances, said Saturday there is too much to do before the expanded playoff can take place and that every conference will have to get on the same page to make significant changes in a hurry.

"If history's a lesson to help us understand the future, it won't be easy," Sankey said. "But minds change, motivations change. ... There's a bunch of moving parts. That's where I wish we could have used the last nine months to work. We'll have to accelerate our consideration to make it happen."

Next, who will benefit? An expanded playoff will mean more money pouring into the sport and particularly its Power 5 programs, which are already widening the divide between haves and have-nots with the conference realignment agreements and TV deals that have taken shape in recent months.

According to an Associated Press report, an 11-game championship bracket could be worth as much as $2 billion in media rights to the conferences that play major college football. If the new format begins before the current 12-year contract with ESPN expires, the conferences could make an additional $450 million over the final two years. The current deal that ends after the 2025 season pays about $470 million per year.

Last month, well before expansion was locked in, Ohio State star quarterback C.J. Stroud advocated for revenue sharing among student-Big Ten athletes, based on the lucrative multi-network media deal the conference announced on the heels of its planned expansion to 16 teams.

Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh agrees with his rival, particularly in the wake of the CFP expansion news, stating Monday, “I do believe the players should receive a revenue share from the massive TV deals that have been worked out."

Finally, is this the end of it? Doubtful. Look for chatter surrounding a 16-team CFP model to continue, as it has seemingly from the start of expansion talks.

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