With another year of the College Football Playoff teams being selected with a bit of dramatic flair and questions about what exactly the qualifications are for being selected, the idea of expanding the playoff field beyond four teams continues to be mentioned by media and fans alike who are on the pro-playoff expansion side of the conversation. Unfortunately for them, College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock continues to say expansion has not been discussed.
“There’s been no talk about a format change in the meetings of the commissioners and the presidents who manage the CFP,” Hancock said Sunday, according to Heather Dinich of ESPN.
Hancock went on to say the system is perfectly fine and suggested the format is drumming up exactly the kind of interest it was intended to when originally formed.
“This was the kind of debate we wanted when we created the playoff,” Hancock said. “We wanted diverse opinions, we wanted people who wouldn’t hesitate to state their feelings, and man, we got it.”
Oh boy, did they.
As will typically be the case, the most conversation will come around who gets the fourth spot in the four-team playoff field. The fun began right out of the gates when Ohio State was selected with the fourth seed ahead of both Big 12 co-champions, Baylor and TCU, in 2014. While Ohio State, who went on to win the national championship, had a case to be included ahead of Baylor and TCU, the outcome helped ignite the Big 12’s decision to bring back its conference championship game, which returned last year for the first time since the conference went from 12 members to 10.
Things went pretty smoothly in 2015 with a pretty clean path to getting to four teams without much debate, but the 2016 season marked the first time a non-division winner was invited to the playoff with Ohio State getting the third seed ahead of one-loss Pac-12 champion Washington. The biggest question here was either whether Ohio State, who lost to Big Ten champion Penn State (who lost two games), should have even been considered without a division championship or whether Penn State deserved a shot at the playoff over Washington. Whatever the case, Penn State had two losses so the final four decision seemed to be the right one in the end.
And of course, last year saw Alabama as a one-loss non-division winner get into the playoff as the fourth seed while Ohio State sat at home as the Big Ten champion, although with two losses. This season marks the third straight year the Big 12 champion has been left out of the playoff mix. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart also stumped hard for consideration to be in the playoff after losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia may be one of the four best team in the country, but a second loss (even to Alabama in the SEC title game) proved to be too much of an anchor to sink Georgia’s playoff hopes.
The four-team playoff field is here to say, but at some point, it would seem likely the format will eventually change, whether it occurs after the current contract expires or before if enough conference commissioners and presidents start weighing in with a different tune. That has yet to happen, which is why Hancock continues to recite the same answers he’s been doing regarding expansion since the format took over for the BCS.
But always remember, Hancock is also the same one who said for years the BCS was not going to change in favor of a playoff system. Until the time comes when the powers that be tell Hancock to start sending a different message, he’ll continue to say this on a regular basis.