College Football Playoff Board of Managers Unanimously Approves 5+7 Model for New 12-Team Playoff

By Chase Brown on February 20, 2024 at 12:06 pm
Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports

The 12-team College Football Playoff hasn’t started yet, but the format has already changed.

On Tuesday, the CFP Board of Managers unanimously voted to reduce the number of automatic qualifiers from six to five, creating an additional at-large bid for the next two seasons.

The new model – known as the “5+7” –  includes the five highest-ranked conference champions and seven at-large bids. The original model for the 12-team CFP – known as the "6+6" – included six automatic bids for conference champions and six at-large bids.

The Pac-12’s fall left one fewer power conference that could assure its champion a playoff berth. In November, the CFP Management Committee introduced a policy that will require a conference to have at least eight teams to be eligible for one of the playoff's automatic qualifying spots. That would leave the future Pac-12 (Oregon State and Washington State) without an automatic bid unless its membership increases.

Sticking with the 6+6 model with only four power conferences would have opened the door for a second Group of 5 conference champion to fill an automatic playoff bid. The "5+7" model offers a solution to the ever-changing world of college athletics due to conference realignment.

“This is a very logical adjustment for the College Football Playoff based on the evolution of our conference structures since the board first adopted this new format in September 2022,” Mark Keenum, Mississippi State president and chair of the CFP Board of Managers, said in a statement. “I know this change will also be well received by student-athletes, coaches and fans. We all will be pleased to see this new format come to life on the field this postseason.”

Keenum and the CFP Board of Managers made the change official during a meeting that could chart the future of college football and its postseason tournament.

Last week, ESPN reportedly agreed to terms with the CFP on a six-year, $7.8 billion extension to televise the tournament through the 2031-32 season. Those terms were contingent on the CFP finalizing details on the expanded format before it could be completed. The CFP's decision to move from the "6+6" to the "5+7" is one step toward finalization, but work remains.

This week, the Board of Managers is expected to address more details – such as revenue distribution for automatic qualifiers, New Year's Six bowl games and more – before the current round of meetings adjourn.

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