College Football Playoff expands to 12 teams in 2024-25


The College Football Playoff will officially triple in size from its current four teams beginning in the 2024-25 season. The CFP's Board of Mangers has formally approved a 12-team field that will increase access to the playoff, along with revenue for the CFP and its associated parties.

"We're delighted to be moving forward," said CFP executive director Bill Hancock. "When the board expanded the playoff beginning in 2026 and asked the CFP Management Committee to examine the feasibility of starting the new format earlier, the Management Committee went right to work. More teams and more access mean more excitement for fans, alumni, students and student-athletes. We appreciate the leaders of the six bowl games and the two future national championship game host cities for their cooperation. Everyone realized that this change is in the best interest of college football and pulled together to make it happen."

The first round of the 2024-25 playoff will take place throughout the week ending Saturday, Dec. 21; the CFP will attempt to schedule those first-round games later in that week. Games will be hosted either at home stadiums of the highest-seeded teams in those games or other sites chosen by that programs for logistical purposes. Those extra games are expected to general roughly $450 million in revenue from ESPN for the CFP and its members

The expanded 12-team bracket will feature the six highest-ranked conference champions as automatic qualifiers along with the next six highest-ranked teams. The four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded 1-4 with first-round byes. The next four highest-ranked teams (Nos. 5-8) will host the first-round matchups. The CFP Selection Committee will continue to determine weekly ratings with criteria to be reevaluated in the future.

"On behalf of the Management Committee and the Board of Managers, this is thrilling," Hancock added. "It's been a long process, but we are pleased that more teams and more students will have the opportunity to compete for the national championship beginning in the 2024 season. A new era of college football is about to begin. I look forward to it."

The rubber stamp from the playoff board was given after the Rose Bowl acquiesced Wednesday night, agreeing to fall in line with the event's scheduling policy instead of demanding to play in its traditional time slot at 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 1. That time slot is considered one of the most valuable in sports television. The agreement signed by the Rose Bowl, like the ones signed by the other big "contract bowls," likely creates significantly more flexibility in that scheduling process.

In an expanded playoff, the games themselves are more important than the bowls that host the contests. The Rose Bowl refusing to comply with a more uniform scheduling policy would have delayed expansion until 2026 after the CFP's current contract with ESPN ends. That would have cost involved parties an estimated $450 million in added revenue, and it may have kept the Rose Bowl out of the selection process once a new contract was signed. The CFP and ESPN have a mutual agreement in place to begin an exclusive 30-day negotiating window for the rights for 2026 and beyond. 

Over the years, every BCS/CFP scheduling decision -- until now -- has accommodated the Rose Bowl being able to broadcast its game at its preferred time slot 5 p.m. time slot on or around New Year's Day. The game has traditionally been scheduled to follow the Tournament of Roses of Parade. The timing was such that the sun would always set in the West over the San Gabriel Mountains during the game, thus creating one of the most iconic settings in American sports. However, not all accommodations are off the table; Hancock said the selection committee will attempt to link the Rose with a Big Ten or Pac-12 team in the quarterfinals. 

It took college football 71 years to go from its first game (Princeton vs. Rutgers) to ranking teams in the wire service era. The AP poll began in 1936. From there, it took 62 years to actually decide a champion on the field. The BCS started in 1998 and lasted 16 years until the CFP debuted in 2014. The four-team CFP will have lasted 10 years when the 12-team playoff debuts in 2024.  

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