College Football Playoff Will Stay as Is, Looks to New Format in 2026

The College Football Playoff will retain its four-team format to decide a national champion through the duration of its original 12-year plan and looks to implement a new format no sooner than the 2026-27 season, CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

"Even though the outcome did not lead to a recommendation for an early expansion before the end of the current 12-year contract, the discussions have been helpful and informative," Hancock said. "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."

An expansion of the CFP within the next several years could have been worth up to an estimated $450 million for college football, which would have been divided among the conferences. The extra money would come from creating more playoff games that would be nationally televised and broadcast on ESPN. The contract between ESPN and the CFP to broadcast the games expires in 2026.

In his Friday statement, Hancock said the CFP's Board of Managers, made up of 10 conference commissioners and the athletic director at Notre Dame, had a video conference Thursday to confirm the plans to continue the current format for the next four years.

"I thank the working group for its hard work that resulted in the 12-team proposal, and the Management Committee for its thorough and diligent job reviewing it and other possible expansion ideas," Hancock said.

He added, "This has been a long, careful, and detailed process that involved many people considering a complex matter. I am grateful to everyone for their dedication to college football and the detailed and deliberative effort everyone put into the consideration of a different format."

The board met last month in Indianapolis around the time of the National Championship game but left those meetings without the consensus required to agree on an expansion plan, Newsweek previously reported.

At the time, the board discussed a variety of formats, including a proposal announced by a CFP committee last year to expand the CFP to 12 teams, giving six spots to the highest-ranked Football Bowl Subdivision conference champions, regardless of which conference. That would open the door for schools outside of the "Power 5" conferences to be represented more often in the CFP. The other six spots would go to the next six highest-ranked teams in the CFP selection committee's rankings.

The reported roadblocks in last month's negotiations included what conferences should be able to receive the automatic bids into the CFP and where the games will be played (including whether bowl games will be used for the opening rounds or whether some teams will get extra home games). Another roadblock was whether new policies should be introduced to ensure the health of the student-athletes who would be getting extra games added to their schedule.

If an expansion plan had been reached, it likely would have been put into place in 2024, expanding the playoff for the last two years of the sport's contract with ESPN.

Most of the commissioners who are part of the CFP board have expressed support for some form of expansion. The disagreement had to do with how many teams the format would expand to and what the specific details of the expanded CFP would entail, according to the Associated Press.

Update 02/18/22, 12:10 p.m. EST: This story has been updated with additional information and background.

College Football Playoff Expansion Four Teams
The College Football Playoff will retain its four-team format through at least the 2026-27 season, the CFP's executive director announced Friday. Above, the National Championship Trophy is seen on the field prior to the CFP National Championship Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs on January 10 in Indianapolis. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images