ATLANTA, Ga. — The College Football Playoff management committee, which is comprised of the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, are in unanimous agreement that the CFP should not expand beyond four teams right now.
“I’m not there yet,” said American Athletic commissioner Mike Aresco, who has been vocal in his support of UCF, which is the only undefeated team left in the country and finished No. 12 in the selection committee’s final ranking. “I am open to the notion, but I’m not campaigning for it. The last thing I want to do is give anyone the impression I’m campaigning to expand it, because I’m not. I’m happy with the four.”
The unanimous support for four teams might surprise some, considering two teams from the SEC are playing for the national title, and the public outcry for expansion grew following UCF’s win over No. 7 Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The Knights declared themselves national champions — with a parade and bonuses for the coaching staff — but a weak strength of schedule held them back in the eyes of the selection committee.
“I have a lot of confidence and trust in the selection committee who are watching all the games, they are scrubbing all the records, and for me, in their view, it wasn’t even close if they were 12,” said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. “So I don’t really think it’s going to be a topic of conversation.”
The commissioners, university presidents and CFP selection committee members are all in Atlanta this week for the national championship game and for a meeting Monday before the game. They also had dinner together Sunday evening at the College Football Hall of Fame. No changes to the system are expected, and none of the commissioners voiced any major concerns in separate interviews this week with ESPN.
“I really believe in this system, that if you play the right schedule, that you’re going to have an opportunity to be in the discussion,” said MWC commissioner Craig Thompson. “Will you be a semifinalist? Very challenging. But you will be in the conversation.”
The management committee set the guidelines for the 13-member selection committee, requiring them to consider conference championships won, head-to-head competition, strength of schedule and common opponents when determining the top four teams in the country. The CFP is wrapping up its fourth season in a 12-year contract.
“I think we’re right where we should be at this point in time,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said.
The highest-ranked Group of 5 champion is guaranteed a spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl — a far more lucrative and solid position for the Group of 5 than in the previous BCS system. The Group of 5 commissioners are in agreement that in spite of the uphill battle of getting an undefeated team into the semifinals, it’s still a better deal than in the previous system.
“Each time there’s been a change, it’s been for the better,” said Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson. “With all due respect to UCF, if we didn’t have the system we have today, would they be playing in the Peach Bowl last week?”
Under the BCS system, Benson said the Sun Belt received $1 million to $2 million each year.
“We got $15 million last year out of the new system,” he said. “In the bowl system, if there wasn’t a team ranked in the top 12 you were shut out. I’m very satisfied with the current arrangement.”
Some critics of the system have said that what’s missing in college football is the Cinderella stories that are seen more frequently in the college basketball tournament, but C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said she believes it is possible.
“I think it’s harder,” she said, “but something’s got to prove me wrong to think it’s not possible.”