College Football Playoff board: 'Way too soon' to consider expansion

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- There will be no immediate changes to the four-team format of the College Football Playoff, as university presidents and conference commissioners decided at a joint annual meeting on Monday morning at the Fairmont Hotel that they were in "unanimous agreement that the playoff has been a tremendous success."

"As far as expanding the number of teams in the playoff, it's way too soon -- much too soon -- to know if that is even a possibility," Mississippi State president Mark Keenum, chair of the playoff board of managers, said in a prepared statement.

"It's fair to say the speculation about expansion has outdistanced the reality of what the commissioners and the presidents have discussed. If a decision were to be made down the road, the presidents would be the ones to make it and we are not there."

At the meeting were the 10 FBS conference commissioners, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and the university presidents with the power to change the sport. Penn State president Eric Barron and Notre Dame president John Jenkins joined by phone.

"It's been an enormous success in terms of selecting a champion, providing great games," Jenkins told ESPN recently. "I know the pressure to expand, et cetera, but there are arguments on both sides. I think for now, the way my attitude is, is to recognize the success that we have achieved and to make sure that continues. Obviously we'll always monitor and see what the lay of the land is and whether we can do it better."

CFP executive director Bill Hancock said there is no clause in the 12-year contract that allows for changes.

"We have a 12-year contract we are very happy with," added Keenum, just hours before kickoff of the national championship game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson.

Keenum said there was a discussion within the room to see what they could do to improve the current system -- something the board does annually -- but didn't specify if any changes would be implemented by next year's playoff, or give a timeline as to when there might be more discussions.

The value of conference championships as well as the disparity between eight- and nine-game schedules were not discussed at the meeting.

"I can speak on behalf of the Southeastern Conference and tell you we have not had a discussion about expansion of the playoff," Keenum said. "We have not talked about this amongst ourselves. I would be surprised if many of the conferences have had in-depth, deep-dive conversations about the impacts or changes of what we'd be looking at. When they have their meetings or when they have their discussions, I don't know."

Keenum said that last year they asked the selection committee to do "a better review of conference champions," and they looked at how they can do a better job of scheduling the playoff games.

"Everything is on the table," he said. "We're going to look at every aspect of how we can make our playoff system even better, but we all acknowledge it's very good as it is."

The playoff is concluding its fifth season, and the conference commissioners have collectively agreed that while it's a prudent business decision to evaluate the state of the playoff, it doesn't mean that they are anywhere near changing the system. Keenum said that "at some point down the road," the management committee will meet and consider all aspects of the playoff and "when that discussion happens, I advise observes not to read too much into it."

At this time last year, the commissioners and Swarbrick were unanimous in their belief that four is the right number. But after two seasons of watching undefeated UCF and the Big Ten champion being left out of the playoff, there is more uncertainty and questions brewing among the power players of the sport.

"I just don't think we can be tone deaf," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN recently. "We've got to be open-minded about it. Just because we talk about something doesn't mean it's going to happen."

While the presidents and commissioners made it clear that nothing is going to happen immediately, they also left the door open to consider change at a later date.

"The mindset within the P5 right now is that four is where we are and we've got a good long contract and so for the time being four is where we'll be, but I do think that over time the closer review to eight will occur," SMU president R. Gerald Turner told ESPN recently. "It won't just be the American Conference, it will be No. 5 and No. 6, who also want to be in there. We'd like to think that if it's the top eight, that would increase the probability that the UCFs of the world would be eligible."

It's just not going to happen anytime soon.