The Big Ten has seen its champion left out of the College Football Playoff three times overall and twice in the past two seasons. Now, as the Big Ten powers gather for spring meetings, the talk about potential changes to the College Football Playoff are picking up some steam among Big Ten athletic directors.
Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez has previously been outspoken about the idea of expanding the playoff format beyond four teams. As a member of the selection committee, Alvarez has one of the most prominent voices in the game when it comes to playoff expansion, even if the company line from the College Football Playoff is that four teams is the best possible number right now. But the Big Ten is in the midst of changing the discussion as best it possibly can as Jim Delany has begun speaking more favorably for discussing potential expansion, and other Big Ten ADs are beginning to step up to the plate as well.
“I’m open to the consideration and to looking at it and to thinking about it,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said this week, according to MLive.com. “Anytime our Big Ten champion is left out of the playoff … that’s something that needs to be discussed. Because I obviously believe that you go through and you win the Big Ten championship in this league, you’ve accomplished something that deserves to put you in position to play for the national championship.”
Of course, maybe the Big Ten champion just has to avoid having one major bad loss on its schedule at the end of the season. That has been the biggest setback for Ohio State the past two seasons and was at least a part of the reason why Penn State didn’t make the cut a few years ago too.
Even if the Big Ten takes a hard stance in favor of playoff expansion, there is no guarantee that will be nearly enough to lead to any imminent changes to the system. The ACC and SEC remain confident in the current structure, for example, which would seem to make it difficult to pass any proposed changes to the format at this current time. The current contract for the College Football Playoff runs through the 2025 season, the 12th and final year of the initial 12-year TV and media contract for the playoff format with ESPN. Executive director Bill Hancock has said on multiple occasions no changes to the playoff model as far as how many teams may be involved would happen until at least the end of the current contract. As we creep closer and closer to the current contract’s expiration date, the discussions about the future of the playoff will begin to be heavily scrutinized. Contracts can always be adjusted at any time, of course, but the standard response from the College Football Playoff representatives has stayed true to the idea no changes would happen during the current 12-year deal.
Whether you like the current four-team model or not, history in sports has shown the trend is for playoff fields to expand at some point in time. They have expanded in pretty much every sport for as long as postseason sports have been in existence. And it wasn’t really all that long ago the powers that be in charge of the BCS were adamant a playoff would never happen. Now, those same people are running a four-team playoff field that is likely to be inevitable to succumb to the idea of expansion, for better or worse. Right now, the Big Ten is showing its hand in favor of expansion, or at least opening up a dialogue about the future of the College Football Playoff. If you are in favor of expansion, this is your battle cry.