Playoff likely locked in at four teams through 2026

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Two of the most powerful persons involved in the process see little chance college football’s playoff will expand beyond four teams before 2027.

Both ESPN CEO John Skipper and BCS executive director Bill Hancock said there was no “look-in” built into the playoff contract that would allow both parties to come together on a renegotiation of format. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen during the 12-year term of the deal that begins after the 2014 season, but it doesn’t appear likely.

The typical “look-in” language that is usually part of a TV rights-holders’ deal with a conference does not exist in ESPN’s agreement with the FBS commissioners.

“The commissioners and presidents wanted to go long because they wanted to stop further speculation about eight teams and 16 teams,” Skipper said. “They put a stake in the ground that, for 12 years, it’s going to be the same. I don’t think there’s any contemplation that there will be any change to that.”

“They’re [commissioners] committed, and the presidents are too,” Hancock said Monday morning at the annual Football Writers Association of America breakfast. “I tell you on Jan. 7, 2013 I don’t see anything that would change.”

There has been speculation almost from the time the playoff was announced in June that the four-team playoff would quickly morph into eight. There are already potential issues developing with the selection process.

ESPN is paying approximately $500 million per year for the rights to the playoff. Skipper was asked what could change the intent to stay at four teams.

“What could change that if the conference commissioners, if the BCS committee, decided to change it,” Skipper said. “I don’t think they will. There was never any real discussion about eight teams. “

Hancock provided an update Monday of new playoff information:

--The site of the first playoff championship game will be announced before April’s BCS meetings in Pasadena, Calif. It is largely assumed that the first game will at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

--The selection committee is expected to have 15-18 members. Hancock said the composition could include college administrators, commissioners -- even, perhaps, a retired media member.

“It will be the most prestigious committee in college sports,” Hancock said. “It will be the most scrutinized in college sports.”

--Hancock keeps making the comparison to the basketball committee, to the point that the playoff-selection process may not include providing standings updates during the season. That would only provide a template against which the final pairings could be compared.

A personal observation: The committee would be best to provide only a list of teams under consideration during the season. The traditional human polls almost certainly will lose relevance in the playoff era. The coaches’ poll is currently in charge of giving its final No. 1 vote to the winner of the BCS game.

In the future, Hancock joked, “We might give out a crystal kicking tee.”  

“It will come down to the eye test,” he said of the selection process. “It will come down to common sense. Who did you play? Did you win your conference? Who was injured when you played that day? What about common opponents? What about head to head?”

One possible complication for the selection committee in the future: In each of the last two seasons, the Pac-12 champion finished behind a team it beat during the regular season in the final BCS standings. In 2011, that was Oregon behind Stanford. In 2012, it was Stanford behind Oregon.   

--The three “access” or open bowls to be added to the playoff will likely be geographically located – one each in the West, Central and Eastern parts of the country. Figure that to be the Fiesta Bowl, Cowboys Stadium and Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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