The College Football Playoff is close to adjusting its 12-team format next year and moving to a 5+7 model, with five automatic bids for conference champions, instead of the original 6+6.
The CFP management committee, made up of the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, is recommending the 5+7 format to the CFP Board of Managers for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, a person briefed on the decision told The Athletic. The board of managers is made up of 11 university presidents and chancellors. Yahoo Sports first reported the news.
In addition, the management committee is also recommending a policy of requiring a conference to have at least eight teams to be eligible for one of the five automatic qualifying spots. The other seven spots would go to at-large teams.
Both changes are a response to the collapse of the Pac-12, which is currently set to have just two teams next season, Oregon State and Washington State. The schools have an ongoing legal fight with their league over control of the Pac-12’s decision and finances, and it’s not clear if they will fold into another conference or try to pull teams from elsewhere to rebuild the league.
The CFP’s school presidents must vote unanimously for the 5+7 change, and Washington State president Kirk Schulz is the Pac-12 representative, but it would be surprising if the recommendation is not approved.
Thursday’s management committee in Dallas was quite heated, according to people in the room. It was evident in person throughout the day when commissioners left the room less friendly and relaxed than when leaving previous meetings.
“We were down in the weeds and we’re at difficult issues,” MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher told The Athletic at the conclusion of the meeting. “They’re not always fun.”
Asked about various changes after the meeting, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey only replied each time with, “We’ll see.”
The change would remove the possibility of Group of 5 conferences getting two automatic bids when the 12-team CFP begins next year, something Sankey was publicly against. American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco had expressed support for moving to a 5+7 model in 2026 and beyond, when a new television deal and process kicks in, but had pushed back against doing so for 2024 and 2025.
The original 12-team CFP plan, with a 6+6 format, was first created with 2026 in mind. It was later moved up to 2024, and the Pac-12 collapse gave the Group of 5 some unexpected short-term leverage with potentially two spots. But ultimately, the commissioners agreed on making the 5+7 change for the next two seasons. (The 6+6 is technically still in place for 2026, but it’s expected to change as well when more details about the next deal are determined.)
The changes are not official yet, and many other issues remain, including revenue sharing among conferences and the television deal for next season. Executive director Bill Hancock said the 12-team CFP doesn’t expect to have more than two TV partners for the 11 games, but discussions are ongoing. Streaming-only options are also on the table. ESPN has the right to match bids for the eight first- and second-round games in 2024 and 2025. The entire contract is open for 2026 and beyond.
Format change wasn’t the only news. On Friday, the CFP named Air Force superintendent and Lt. Gen. Richard Clark as its next executive director to replace Hancock.
(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)