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College Football Playoff expansion meeting may not be held as resistance to process grows

CBS Sports logo CBS Sports 9/22/2021 Dennis Dodd
a close up of a bag: MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - JANUARY 11: A general view of the CFP field markers before the College Football Playoff National Championship football game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Ohio State Buckeyes at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 52-24. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) © Provided by CBS Sports

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - JANUARY 11: A general view of the CFP field markers before the College Football Playoff National Championship football game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Ohio State Buckeyes at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 52-24. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

College Football Playoff expansion may not only be delayed as expected, but the CFP Board of Managers -- those necessary to vote on adopting a 12-team playoff -- may be asked to not even fly to Chicago for the previously scheduled meeting on Sept. 28, sources tell CBS Sports.

The differences are so vast among stakeholders at this point that the possibility of getting a unanimous vote from the board -- consisting of university presidents and chancellors -- next Tuesday seems like a longshot, sources tell CBS Sports. It's gotten to the point where even holding the meeting at all may prove a worthless endeavor.

"We're going to know about that tomorrow," CFP executive director Bill Hancock said Monday night. "We'll see if they get there. It's 50-50 maybe. It's complex. We knew it would be."

CBS Sports reported earlier this month that CFP expansion was unlikely to be approved at next week's meeting, one that was originally thought to be scheduled as a means of rubber stamping an expanded 12-team playoff field.

What has become clearer in recent days is why.

The CFP Management Committee -- the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick -- could formally recommend expansion as soon as Tuesday following a scheduled meeting in Dallas. However, a call among members of the committee held last week produced what was termed an airing of the grievances.

The issues have become familiar.

Media rights

ESPN has five years left on its original 12-year, $7.2 billion CFP deal. The overwhelming preference among the commissioners is to maximize their profit in expansion by getting multiple partners into the bidding. 

There is significant support to allow the remaining five years to run out and put the expanded playoff out to bid. Allowing multiple partners to bid on the expanded postseason would resemble the models used by the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL.

Among the other options is offering ESPN the opportunity to buy additional playoff games within the 12-year term at an above-market rate, sources tell CBS Sports. That "buy" would be an increase from seven games in the current deal -- three playoff games and four New Year's Six games -- to 11 games in a 12-team playoff. The soonest an expanded CFP could start is 2023.

The CFP could also tell ESPN it may only get half the rights, thereby allowing multiple partners to bid on the other half.

Player safety

Specific, significant issues have come to light. One high-ranking source tells CBS Sports that commissioners have yet to do their due diligence regarding student-athlete welfare when it comes to playing what could be a record 17-game season. Medical personnel has not been engaged properly to assess a team that would be playing two consecutive months without a break if it had an early-season bye week.

As proposed, first-round play-in games would be held a week after conference championship games. However, the chances of playing a 17-game season for any team in a 12-team playoff is remote.

Academics

Playing football during finals in the month of December has been a concern since the BCS started in 1998. An expanded CFP would add more games. Athletes could be on the road for a possible four games in the playoffs.

Winterization

There's potential problems with scheduling playoff games at on-campus stadiums for those in the North and Midwest. Concerns include pipes freezing within bathroom sand irrigation systems. One source says the expense in winterizing such stadiums is $10 million to $12 million per stadium, and the process would take two years to complete.

That problem could solved by conferences declaring a central location within the conference footprint for play-in games. Examples: SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles for the Pac-12, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the Big Ten and Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for the SEC. 

Winterization is less of a concern than the others. The NHL has played five Winter Classic games in January at college stadiums.

The Rose Bowl

Patience seems to have run out on allowing the Granddaddy of 'em All access to its traditional partners (Big Ten, Pac-12) at its traditional time (Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. ET). In an expanded playoff, the games themselves are seen to be more important than the locations at which they are played.

It seems the Rose Bowl will either be part of the expanded playoff -- placed in the bracket at the whim of the stakeholders -- or be played outside the CFP.

As proposed, the expanded playoff would include the top six ranked conference champions followed by six at-large teams determined by the CFP Rankings. The four highest-ranked conference champions would receive first-round byes.

It was thought that the 12-team proposal leveled the playing field. The Pac-12 would have increased access. In most years, it would almost certainly have its champion ranked in the top six. Notre Dame would have its best access ever, only needing to finish in or around the top 12 to get a bid. The top-ranked Group of Five champion would basically be guaranteed a spot with the potential for other Group of Five teams to get into the field as well.

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