ATHENS — College football will become a playoff sport in earnest beginning in 2024 when the field grows from its current structure of four teams to 12 teams.
The move will triple fanbase engagement into November, with more teams remaining in “playoff” contention as the regular season winds down while also increasing the annual value of the CFP from $600 million to more than $2 billion, per a USA Today report.
Former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer saw this day coming, and while it is exciting for college football, it changes the dynamic of the sport.
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“Once the playoff decision was made, I think it was almost inevitable at some point it would expand because it became a mark of distinction to be a part of the playoff,” Kramer told DawgNation in a recent phone interview.
“I’m not sure there are more than four teams really worthy of being national champions.”
Kramer, 93, is regarded as the “Godfather” of college football, uniting the sport to reach a consensus national champion through his ingenious Bowl Championship Series (BCS) plan.
The base of Kramer’s BCS — a bowl rotation — has been applied as the college football championship evolved from a two-team event (1998) to four (2014) and now 12 (2024).
But as Kramer points out, making college football more of a tournament sport doesn’t necessarily reward the best team.
“As you move it to 12, it becomes more like the basketball championship, and that is certainly a fine event,” Kramer said. “But you really are the tournament champion. Are you the best team in the country? Not necessarily.
“I thought with four, we narrowed it to a game that determined the national champion. Now that we’ve broadened it, we will have a national champion, but it will be the champion of that playoff.”
Kramer pointed out that, like the multi-tiered NFL playoffs, chances for the best teams to get upset increase.
“You will have a team worthy of being a national champion that will be upset because of the nature of sports,” Kramer said.
Kramer doesn’t deny the need for growth in the sport and notes the playoff expansion serves that purpose.
“I think more than revenue, it’s a need for access,” Kramer said. “You (currently) have four teams, so you automatically leave out one of the (power) five or Notre Dame.
“To have access to that playoff is a status symbol for a conference and their programs, and I think that’s largely where this comes from,” he said.
“There’s certainly additional revenue, but I think it was more about access to the stature of being in the playoff, so to speak.”