By Ralph de Russo
AP College Football Writer
College Football Playoff is designed for expansion.
While only three matches determine a champion, the current format is seven matches: two semi-final matches, a title game and four marquee games. Converting a four-team playoff to a 12-team version requires four more matches and about three more weeks.
The four-team model is already scheduled for seasons 2024 and 25, but the conference commissioners who run the CFP have been working to overturn the format for those years.
“There’s a lot of moving parts, a lot of bits,” Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said earlier this month after a management committee meeting in Dallas.
True, but the framework is there.
Expansion into the 2024 and 25 seasons — and reaching an additional $450 million in revenue over those two years — depends largely on whether the semi-finals and championship games can be postponed from their current dates, with venue availability, large event venues and TV windows They are all lined up.
“It’s the calendar,” said Bill Hancock, executive director of the CFP. “When are we going to play these games?”
The NFL schedule will play a large role in determining when games will be played in a 12-team format in 2024, 25 and beyond.
Warning to college football fans: Be prepared for playoff games on weeknights.
The four new First Round matches to be played on campus will be played at least 12 days after the Conference Championship matches, currently played the first weekend of December. This gives teams playing for their conference titles extra comfort and keeps Army-Navy as the only major college football game for the second weekend of December.
The NFL moved away from the first two Saturdays of December out of respect for college football, but that’s it. Starting in the third weekend of December, the NFL can expect the NFL to play several games on Saturdays through mid-January and the first two weekends of the playoffs.
The CFP will either forgo scheduling matches on Saturday or risk a head-to-head competition with the NFL. There are NFL games streaming Thursday night on Amazon for your consideration as well, and the NFL is basically unmatched in attracting American viewers.
“It’s just such a giant ratings,” said Bob Thompson, former president of Fox Sports Network.
There have been 18 college football semi-finals. Five of them drew more than 20 million viewers. The rest ranged from 15.7 million to 19.5 million.
Last year, Monday Night Football on regular ESPN averaged 14.2 million viewers, and Sunday Night football on NBC averaged 18.5 million.
Perhaps the CFP could put together a first-round match or two on the third Saturday in December when NFL games will likely be broadcast by the NFL Network.
“I think if I were a network, I would say, ‘If you were to force us to play an NFL game, I know my rating would go down so I wouldn’t bid as much,’” Thompson said.
But this is a reality to be dealt with regardless of when CFP expands, not a reason to avoid early expansion.
For the 2024 and 25 seasons, CFP quarter-final matches will be played in a 12-team format in the New Year’s six non-playoff matches already scheduled on and around January 1st.
This should be a relatively easy switch.
In fact, these two’s current bowl lineup provides some assistance in expansion efforts. The Rose or Sugar bowls will not have to be transferred from the contractually restricted time slots on January 1st. The other two matches may need to reschedule, but only for a few days.
This is where things are likely to get complicated. For example, in the 2024-25 season:
The semi-finals are scheduled to take place at Cotton Stadium and the Orange Bowl on Saturday, December 28. In order for the semi-final matches to remain in the 12-team format, these matches will likely not take place before Wednesday, January 8.
The NFL schedule is once again squeezing out what’s available to the CFP. The NFL weekend will be January 11-12, 2025. Ideally, the CFP will play its semifinals on the weekend or Monday, January 13 – but the NFL’s expanded wild card tour now has six Matches, including Monday night.
– That will leave Thursday, January 9 and Friday, January 10 as the best dates for the CFP semi-finals to be held in North Texas and South Florida, both of which are in stadiums used by NFL teams.
– This season’s championship game was recently awarded to Atlanta and was scheduled for Monday, January 6. It will likely be rolled back for two weeks, until Monday, January 20.
Hosting a CFP tournament also requires more than one soccer field available.
Hotel space is required for teams, media and thousands of fans from out of town. In addition, the CFP schedules events in and around the host city leading up to the tournament, in an effort to give it a Super Bowl feel.
“So you need to look at Playoff Fan Central’s convention center. Local parks for potential concert venues. What would media day look like? It’s a variety of different checks,” said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Athletic Commission in Florida. related to availability that will really determine the feasibility of that.” Tampa hosted the 2017 CFP Final.
Ideally, big events like the CFP Championship are scheduled from three to seven years, Higgins said.
“However, a more compressed schedule could still be developed if hotels and facilities were provided by the host,” he said.
The CFP management committee meets again next week near Chicago. On Wednesday, the 2024 semi-finals will be exactly two years and three months away.
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