College Football Playoff to expand to 12 teams in 2024 as Rose Bowl backs down: Sources

  • The decision will allow for the CFP to expand to 12 teams in time for the 2024 season.
  • In September, the presidents and chancellors who make up the CFP Board of Managers approved the 12-team model that had been initially proposed in June 2021 but was held up by disagreements among the commissioners.
  • The board then called on those commissioners to re-open discussions about the possibility of implementing the 12-team model earlier than 2026, when the initial CFP contract expires.


The Rose Bowl wanted assurances from CFP leadership that its game would continue to be played at 5 p.m. ET on New Year’s Day in an exclusive broadcast window. It wanted that valuable time slot even in years in which the Rose Bowl was not a CFP quarterfinal game, which would throw a wrench into the calendar and the way the new postseason would work. That assurance would also represent special treatment that no other bowl receives.

The Rose Bowl’s refusal to break its current contract, which runs through the 2025-26 season, would have ended any hopes of expanding early.

“The Rose Bowl Game continues to be open to the possibility of early expansion of the existing playoff. While we have requested specific contract assurances in our initial discussions with the College Football Playoff, we continue to remain open to these discussions,” game organizers said in a statement to the Associated Press earlier in November. “We have no intention of being the lone roadblock that would keep expansion from happening before the end of its current cycle.”

“As the only New Year’s Six bowl with an independent contract, we’re working to navigate our existing agreement,” Rose Bowl Management Committee Chair Laura Farber told ESPN. “While we’re willing to work through certain areas, we’ve maintained that an exclusive broadcast window on Jan. 1 at 2 p.m. PT is important to the Rose Bowl Game.”

What this will (probably) look like

So, we know the basic framework of the 12-team CFP, because that is what was approved earlier this fall. The six highest-ranked FBS champions will be guaranteed access, and the remaining six spots will go to the best at-large teams. The top four seeds will receive first-round byes and Nos. 5-8 will host on-campus games for the first round. The rest of the rounds will be played at bowl sites.

Dates of the first-round games in 2024 and 2025 have not been totally locked in yet — and they can’t until ESPN signs off on them and figures out its TV windows — but as of now, the expectation is that they will take place the third weekend of December, two weeks after conference championship games, and that they will be played on Friday and Saturday. This means that some games will go head-to-head with NFL regular-season games played that Saturday.

It is possible that the calendar will change for the new CFP contract beginning in 2026; if the whole season moves up to what is now referred to as Week 0, that alleviates some of the stress on the back-end of postseason scheduling. Issues tied to 2026 and beyond will be resolved in the future. — Auerbach 

Required reading

(Photo: Maxx Wolfson / Getty Images)

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