College Football Playoff Could Expand Beyond Four Teams

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez
Brian Blanco / Getty Images

For many years, the highest division of college football did not have a playoff system. The top teams would play bowl games in December and January, with one of them billed the championship game, but there was no official playoff system in place.

That finally changed at the end of the 2014 season when the College Football Playoff was instituted. This scrapped the much-hated Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system in favor of a new setup in which four teams are chosen to compete in a playoff, in which pairs of them play in semifinals before the winners of those games meet in a championship game.

While there has been occasional grumbling over the selection of the teams as well as the bad move, since corrected, to schedule the semifinal games on New Years’ Eve, the College Football Playoff system has been mostly well-received. The setup of four teams in the playoffs strikes a balance between a fair way to crown a national championship and making sure that the regular season retains meaning.

Now, there’s talk of the College Football Playoff getting bigger.

Barry Alvarez, the powerful athletic director at the University of Wisconsin, said in an interview this week that there is an upcoming “window” to expand the playoff.

“There’s a way you can go to eight teams very easily, starting a week early with a bye with the top four seeds,” Alvarez said in an interview with The Athletic. “You can go to eight teams easily. There are eight teams that really could have a chance to win. So I think that it will expand. I just don’t know when.”

Alvarez said that a year from now is a window for conference commissioners to negotiate an expansion of the playoff system.

Alvarez, the former Wisconsin head football coach, also said that he originally supported four teams but was upset that no teams in Wisconsin’s conference, the Big Ten, qualified in either of the last two years.

The former coach added that he’s not interested in replacing Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney following his upcoming retirement.

Clemson won the national championship last year in their fourth straight trip to the playoff. In the five years since the switch to a playoff, Alabama and Clemson have won twice each, with Ohio State taking the championship in the playoff’s inaugural year. After their victory, the Clemson team was famously served fast food hamburgers at the White House, per The Inquistir.