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College Football Playoff to Retain Four-Team Format; Expansion Possible in 2026

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Host Committee News Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today (February 18, 2022), College Football Playoff executive director, Bill Hancock, released a statement confirming the current four-team playoff model that has been in place since the 2014 season will continue until at least 2026 after months of debate around a proposed 12 team system came to an end.

Stipulations of the expanded playoffs included automatic bids for the six highest-ranked conference champions, with the four highest-ranked champions being awarded a first-round bye, plus the six next highest-ranked teams. The first round would have awarded the highest-ranked seeds a home-field game, while subsequent rounds would be hosted by pre-existing bowl games. At no point would teams be reseeded.

In his statement, Hancock explained “Even though the outcome did not lead to a recommendation for an early expansion before the current 12-year contract, the discussions have been helpful and informative. I am sure they will serve as a useful guide for the Board of Managers and for the Management Committee as we determine what the Playoff will look like beginning in the 2026-2027 season.”

According to Navigate Research, a sports and entertainment market research company whose client list includes the likes of the sports world’s largest brands including ESPN, Fox Sports, University of Washington, Ohio State University, the Los Angeles Lakers, the SEC, as well as the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, NASCAR, and the United States Olympic Committee among others, the television rights for a 12-team playoff could be worth as much as $1.9 billion, with ticket sales and sponsorship deals pushing the total potential revenue pool over $2 billion annually. The current contract that expires in 2026 sees ESPN paying a total of $600 million per year for the broadcasting rights to the six New Year’s day games and the ensuing national championship.