The College Football Playoff will reach the halfway mark of its 12-year agreement with ESPN after the championship game of the 2019 season, which will be held in New Orleans.
It has used a four-team format since replacing the Bowl Championship Series, which pitted the top two teams in a title contest from the 1998 season to the 2013 season. The CFP's board of managers met before Monday night's Alabama-Clemson championship game in Santa Clara, California, and they agreed that remaining at four teams is more desirable than pursuing talk of expansion.
"It's way too soon – much too soon – to know if that is even a possibility," said Mississippi State president Mark Keenum, the CFP board chairman. "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."
Keenum's comments followed those of playoff CEO Bill Hancock, who said over the weekend in Santa Clara that he does not believe the playoff will expand in this 12-year cycle.
"The four-team format is extremely popular," Hancock said.
Speculation that the CFP board could begin substantive conversation about expanding the field grew last month when Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told The Athletic that his conference would be willing to discuss the topic. Delany called it "a good idea, given all of the conversations and noise around the issue."
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby also expressed interest, telling The Athletic, "It's an appropriate thing to be thinking about."
All five College Football Playoff fields have contained Alabama out of the Southeastern Conference, with Clemson of the Atlantic Coast Conference receiving an invitation each of the past four seasons. Oklahoma of the Big 12 has earned a spot in three of the past four playoffs, and the frequency of those three programs has resulted in the two other Power Five conferences — the Big Ten and the Pac-12 — occasionally getting left in the cold.
Ohio State won the inaugural CFP title during the 2014 season, but the Buckeyes and the rest of the Big Ten have been left out of the past two fields. The Pac-12 was represented in the 2014 (Oregon) and 2016 (Washington) playoffs but hasn't since.
The SEC sent two teams last season, with Alabama defeating Georgia in the championship game.
"At some point down the road, as part of our regular review of all matters pertaining to the playoff, the management committee will meet, and it will consider all aspects of the playoff," Keenum said. "When that discussion happens, I advise observers not to read too much into it. We have a 12-year contract we are very happy with. It is always appropriate to ask the right questions and to examine every issue to be sure we have things right.
"We are very satisfied with the playoff and look forward to its continued success."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.