College Football Playoff plans to expand to 12 teams by the 2026 season

After months of discussion, the College Football Playoff’s board of managers has decided to expand its tournament to 12 teams no later than the 2026 season.

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The Associated Press reported on Friday that CFP finally approved details about its plans to expand to 12 teams by 2026 or possibly as soon as the 2024 season.

CFP still needs to determine how fast the four-team model can be converted and implemented, according to the AP. Once it does, college football’s championship bracket will almost triple in size. It also has to figure out how the new revenue will be shared, and that plan needs to get approved by the presidents.

“There are still quite a few issues that have to be resolved -- some very obvious logistical issues that have to be resolved -- but our hope is that we can get (the commissioners) to move on this as quickly as it is possible to do so,” Mississippi State President Mark Keenum, chair of the CFP’s board of managers, said in a statement. “We have asked our commissioners, the management committee, to explore the possibility of us beginning the 12-team playoff format before the 2026 season, in either 2024 or 2025.”

The AP reported that it was a unanimous vote that helped to get the expansion going early. Eleven university leaders on the board approved the original 12-team proposal. The top six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large picks will make the playoff.

The four-highest ranked conference champions will receive a bye into the second round, ESPN reported. First-round games between teams seeded fifth through 12th will be played at the college campuses. Quarterfinal and semifinal games will be played in bowl games on a rotating basis, and the championship game will be held at a neutral site, according to the sports news outlet.

According to the AP, 12 teams and 11 postseason games, winding up with the championship game, could be worth as much as $2 billion in media rights starting in 2026.

If the new plans can be started before the current 12-year contract is over with ESPN, the conferences could make $450 million more during the last two years of the contract, which is about $470 million a year, according to the AP.

According to the AP, past 2025, there isn’t a TV contract in place for the playoffs, and CFP is hoping that this new format will open the door to other possibilities with other TV outlets instead of just ESPN.