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The Case for a 16-Team College Football Playoff Gains Support

The times are certainly changing…in college football, that is.

When the current College Football Playoff contract ends after the 2025-26 season, 88 percent of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) athletic directors say they want to see an expanded playoff, according to a survey conducted recently by Stadium.

It’s being called, “The Case for 16.”

“To paraphrase the old TV show, ‘Eight Isn’t Enough,’” a Power Five athletic director said. “There needs to be more meaningful postseason opportunities meaningful to the players and meaningful for the fans. Bowl games no longer fit that consistently.”

In Stadium’s survey, 11 percent of the athletic directors prefer a 16-team playoff, making it the second-most popular option for an expanded playoff field.

Currently, the four-team College Football Playoff provides the least access for teams to the playoff out of all major professional sports, in addition to the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level and Division I for college basketball. In the four-team College Football Playoff format, only 3 percent of the 130 FBS teams end up making it to the playoff, in comparison to 19 percent of the FCS teams and 19.4 percent of Division I men’s basketball schools in the NCAA Tournament.

“The more playoff spots there are (in college football), the more it will encourage better scheduling because then a regular season loss or two doesn’t end a team’s championship aspirations,” a Power Five AD said.

No team with two losses has ever qualified during the College Football Playoff’s first six years.

With that in mind, several elite college football programs recently improved their future non-conference schedules. Some upcoming home-and-home series now include: Alabama-Texas, Ohio State-Notre Dame, Oklahoma-Georgia, Wisconsin-Alabama, Georgia-Florida State, Washington-Ohio State, Texas-Georgia, Oklahoma-Alabama, Texas-Ohio State and Clemson-Georgia.

While only 3 percent of FBS teams make the College Football Playoff, 65 percent of FBS teams qualify for bowl games.

The problem with that is that although athletic directors value the “bowl experience,” they say the bowls resemble “exhibition-type games.” In the past, high-profile NFL Draft prospects have skipped bowl games to avoid injuries.

“In a 16-team playoff everyone would feel like they have a chance,” according to one AD. “I also do not buy many of the reasons for not supporting it. I don’t think it takes away from the regular season as it is still very difficult to finish in the top 16.

Some athletic directors are recommending that in a 16-team playoff, the eight teams that lost in the tournament’s first round could then advance to play in one of the bowl games, so student-athletes would still get the “bowl experience.”

By explaining the playoff, the 12-game regular season likely would need to be reduced.

“Rather than add games to an already long season, I would play an 11-game schedule for an eight-team playoff and a 10-game schedule for a 16-team playoff,” another Power Five AD said. He adds, “The games eliminated would be non-conference and consist mostly of games that are non-competitive, which most people don’t want to watch and most athletes don’t want to play in.”

There is no word on when a vote may take place.