ATHENS — The College Football Playoffs are on the verge of changing, and it’s a change for the better.
Call it a sign of the times, but also, call it progress.
If there’s one thing sports fans want, it’s more football. The 12-team proposal, which could be in play as early as 2023, brings more quality and more volume into the college football postseason.
The 12-team playoff field is set by taking the top six ranked conference champions, and then the next six best as selected by the College Football Playoff Committee.
The teams that are seeded 5-12 meet in the first round of playoffs after the respective league championship games to determine the four teams that will advance to face the top four teams, which have byes.
Those four quarterfinal games will be held via the bowl sites, as would the two semifinal games leading up to the College Football Playoff Championship Game.
This 12-team proposal was two years in the making. It was well-thought-out by a star-studded sub-committee consisting of SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson.
The mere fact the proposal was made public before it goes before the 11-member CFP management committee in Chicago on Thursday and Friday is telling.
There’s an effort to provide clarity, gauge interest, and generate momentum.
Here are three reasons the proposal makes sense:
1. More interest
College football is a sport of passion, and its unique bowl nature served it well for decades and ensured fans of various teams stay engaged throughout the postseason.
The introduction of the four-team CFP in 2014 and New Year’s Six bowl rotation, however, minimized the bowl system that has been in place.
Many fans, and more importantly, some players, don’t see the same value in the bowls if they aren’t part of the College Football Playoff.
Former Stanford star Christian McCaffrey and LSU standout Leonard Fournette proved to be trendsetters when they sat out secondary bowl games following the 2016 season.
Georgia has had at least one team captain sit out each of the past three bowl games, even though they were of the more esteemed New Year’s Six varieties.
Many of the Bulldogs who sat out, including first-round NFL draft pick Deandre Baker, Andrew Thomas and Eric Stokes, have indicated they would have participated in CFP games.
Florida had its top three receivers -- including first-round picks Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney -- sit out of its New Year’s Six Bowl last season. Oklahoma beat the watered-down Gators 55-20, Florida’s offense so discombobulated that Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask threw three interceptions.
There’s no doubt that adding additional postseason games, playoff games, at that, will attract more attention than consolation bowl games where teams are missing marquee players.
Further, the 12-team playoff would generate an additional $1.2 to $1.8 billion, per a CBSsports.com report.
2. More teams
College football has 130 teams at the FBS level spanning from coast to coast and beyond to Hawaii. The programs’ exposure has never been better with streaming services available for most all games not aired by the major cable networks.
By adding more teams to the playoffs there will be better representation from the 10 different conferences and independents spread out across different regions, some that have been missing out. The Pac-12, for example, has not had a team make the CFP since Washington’s appearance in 2016.
Another reason to have a 12-team playoff topped by the highest-ranked six conference champions is that more programs will remain in contention for the national championship further into the season.
That’s good news for college football TV viewership, and the monetary gains trickle down to the schools. Better TV ratings mean more advertising revenue, which increases the value of the respective conferences’ contracts, which means a bigger share going out to member schools
It’s inevitable that some if not most all the secondary bowl games could fall off with an expanded playoff taking up even more of the center stage.
But the recent trend of players opting out could grow even larger and threaten those bowls, anyway.
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“A lot of the bowl cancellations last year was COVID related, but truth be told, there’s a lot of kids asking ‘why are we doing this?’ " Former Georgia and Miami coach Mark Richt said. “And they are getting a bigger voice. What happens when they call a team vote, and say, ‘Coach we don’t want to play in this game.’ "
3. More fairness
One of the bigger concerns raised when the four-team College Football Playoff was first introduced in 2014 was the notion it might dilute the importance of the regular season.
Indeed, there was a time when every game was considered a playoff of sorts, teams striving for perfect seasons that would keep them in the national championship conversation.
But as time passed and the number of games on the schedule increased, the concept and practicality of simply rewarding the top unbeaten or one-loss teams waned. The schedule strengths were not equal in strength from one league to the next.
The 2017 Central Florida team, with its perfect 12-0 record, served as a prime example. The American Athletic Conference Knights were left out of the four-team playoff due to playing in a weaker (non-Power 5) league.
The 12-team playoff taking the highest-ranked six conference champions ensures a Group of Five team gets in.
The 12-team playoff also does not limit the number of teams that get any from any respective conference, which should help smooth over Power Five scheduling rough spots.
Many Power Five teams, recognizing the strength of their league would ensure them a CFP spot should they win their conference championship game, loaded up the non-conference portions of their schedules with non-competitive games.
Expanding to 12 teams actually incentivizes teams to schedule more aggressively, as Georgia coach Kirby Smart recently explained.
“I think a lot of this is going to boil down to the strength of schedule,” Smart said on the Marty & McGee Show. “And losses won’t kill you when you start talking about top 12. You’ve got to have a powerful schedule and go play good teams.”
RELATED: Kirby Smart shares thoughts on 12-team CFP proposal
The next step for the 12-team College Football Playoff proposal is to go before the 11-member CFP Management Committee on Thursday and Friday. The fact that four of the members designed the proposal seems like a pretty good indication it will be approved.
The CFP Management Committee, in turn, would forward a recommendation to the CFP board of managers, which will meet June 22 in Dallas. The CFP board of managers is made up of school presidents representing the 10 FBS conferences and Notre Dame.
Per the College Football Playoff release, the CFP board will then “decide whether to authorize feasibility assessments and potentially discussions with other entities that would allow for implementation of any altered format.”
If the board were to authorize a “study period” this summer, it would meet again in September to review the results. The board would also seek feedback from presidents, athletics directors, coaches, student-athletes, holding the power to make any modifications.