Money Talks: 12-team expansion is financially best for the CFP

With the arrival of the college football playoff rankings Monday, we got a first look at the schools vying for the top four to compete for the national

Although these games are enjoyable to watch because they include the best of the best, the schools usually end up with the same lineup almost every year with some iteration of Alabama, Clemson (although not this year for sure), Oklahoma, Ohio State and some other major powerhouse, such as Georgia. 

I’m not going to lie; it does get somewhat boring just seeing the same teams play over and over again. That’s why college basketball is much more enjoyable among fans of both sports because there are 64 teams, increasing the possibility of more upsets between the small and major programs, thus, the name March Madness. 

Unfortunately, you can’t really call the CFP madness. 

I think the most evident case of the restrictive atmosphere of the football playoffs is the example of the 2017 UCF Knights, who went undefeated and still didn’t get an invite. There were arguments that their schedule was too easy compared to other schools, but why not give them a shot to see how they would fare against the top schools? 

Still, UCF was able to edge out Auburn in the Peach Bowl, showing it was able to compete with top college football schools in the nation. Hopefully, the same won’t happen to Cincinnati if they stay undefeated this season. 

Nevertheless, all these complaints I just mentioned might go away soon. Currently, the CFP committee is reassessing the competition’s format with the introduction of more teams. After announcing the expansion this summer, the committee considered looking into what would be a more equitable way to involve more teams. Right now, the current debate is between an 8-team or 12-team format. 

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Obviously, the major reason for the 12-team format is that more teams can participate, especially those that are not from the Power 5 conferences. With more teams, this also equals more television revenue with estimates at around a combined $450 million of additional revenue if the 12-team format takes place in 2024 and 2025. 

Additionally, with more involved programs, that means their fans will more likely attend these playoff bowl games and purchase merchandise, which can bring more money to schools. Still, by having 12-teams, more games can also lead to other issues such as injuries and other troubles with a longer season. 

Moreover, as the playoffs expand with more bowl games, the bowls that are not included are going to lose even more value now. Although, this is not really a one-to-one comparison  (think about March Madness compared to other post-season college basketball tournaments, such as NIT and CBI — I highly doubt too many people are watching the latter two). So, the same issue could occur again with these other non-playoff bowl games in the future. 

A potential solution could be to get rid of bowl games in the playoffs so that every game is equal, similar to how it is in March Madness. But that is very unlikely to happen. The major bowl games have too much history since their start with the 1902 Rose Bowl. 

If major teams are playing in just the “semifinals” or “quarterfinals,” the playoffs will lose some of the game’s sentiment for them. Additionally, losing the sponsors for these bowl games will not help financially either. Schools and conferences can get payouts in the millions if their team wins one. 

Even though there is more risk with a longer season, I believe the 12-game approach would be the best way to structure the playoffs so that teams have a chance at the championship. Rather than playing the what-if game to see if an undefeated non-Power 5 school could have beaten Alabama in the playoffs, let’s try to actually see that happen moving forward. 

It would be great financially, and more importantly, it would make watching the playoffs more enjoyable as well. 

Pratik Thakur is a junior writing about business in the world of college sports. His column, “Money Talks,” runs every other Wednesday.