Sports Journalism Blog

By Robby General | @rgeneraljr

Sports Capital Journalism Program

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Members of the College Football Playoff administration are scheduled to meet on Monday to consider the possibility of discussing future expansion of the four-team event.

The playoff’s governance includes the board of managers, comprised of 11 university presidents and chancellors representing each Football Bowl Subdivision conference and Independents, and the management committee, consisting of the 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick. The annual scheduled meeting will take place hours before the 2019 National Championship.

The purpose of the meeting is to bring together those in charge of the playoff’s administrative operations to examine potential changes to the format that is completing the fifth season of a 12-year contract.

Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford and Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey emphasized Sunday morning that it is very unlikely any significant decision would be made in a meeting that is scheduled to last one hour. Both agreed, however, that it’s important to get the right people in the same room in order to start a dialogue about how the playoff moves forward.

“Right now, just talking to folks involved, I just don’t see a real appetite for it,” Swofford said when asked about proposals to create an eight-team field.

“The good news is that thoughtful people are having the right conversations,” Sankey said. “There were principles established when it (the College Football Playoff) was created and we need to see where these principles are wrong.”

Sankey said the current playoff system has not diverted from those principles, which include the addition of only one game and voting structure to select the four best teams. While some officials in college athletics have been outspoken about ideas to expand the playoff, the structure has been considered an improvement over the two-team Bowl Championship Series format in effect for 16 seasons from 1998 through 2013.

Alabama coach Nick Saban and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney defended the current system during a press conference Sunday morning. Each was asked if the success of their programs in the playoff was good for college football.

“I think the objective is to get the two best teams,” Swinney said.  “If that’s not best for college football, then why do we even do it? … I think the two best teams – I think it works. We went to a playoff, and the two best teams are here, and the two best teams have been here every year.”

Swinney compared the current system to the one in place during his college career at Alabama, when the second-ranked Crimson Tide won the 1992 national championship by defeating No. 1 Miami in the Sugar Bowl. The game was played at the end of the first season of the Bowl Coalition, the initial effort by college administrators to match the top two teams in a bowl game.

“Why don’t we just go back to the way it was and have bowl games, and you put this team against this team, and it’s not necessarily the two best teams playing, and then at the end, like it used to do, you just vote on who you think is the best team,” Swinney said. “That’s what we used to have.

“So then everybody got mad and said, dang, we want to put the best team against the best team…We’re not going to vote on it anymore, we’re going to earn it and settle it on the field and put the two best teams together.”

Saban said the playoff is “the target that every program and every team is sort of aiming for.”

Alabama is the only team to reach the playoff each of the five seasons since 2014. Clemson has appeared in each of the last four semifinals and will play in a third championship game.

The SEC leads all conferences with six playoff appearances and the ACC is second with five. The Big Ten and Big 12 have made three appearances, the Pac-12 two, and FBS Independents have appeared once.