CFP officials discuss expanding to 14-team playoff in 2026

CFP approves 5+7 model for 12-team playoff (1:55)

Heather Dinich breaks down the 5+7 layout the CFP committee plans to use for the 12-team playoff starting this fall. (1:55)

The idea of a 14-team College Football Playoff starting in the 2026 season was discussed at CFP meetings in Dallas on Wednesday, just months before the start of the first season with a 12-team playoff.

CFP executive director Bill Hancock acknowledged the idea was discussed but declined to provide specific details, saying, "There's work still to be done."

With CFP officials pushing to finalize a deal for a television contract for the next eight years, three lingering issues remain unresolved: access, distribution of money and governance. Hancock said the issues need to be resolved within the next month.

The CFP management committee, which is made up of the commissioners and incoming Notre Dame athletic director Pete Bevacqua, met Wednesday and discussed potentially expanding the field after the current contract runs out following the 2025 season.

According to sources, the most dominant discussion of a new model revolved around a 14-team playoff, and CFP leaders left Wednesday's meeting feeling there was momentum. The bump from 12 to 14 teams, as opposed to 16, would mostly address the issue of access rather than finances.

Officials will still need to discuss how a 14-team playoff would split up automatic qualifiers -- for example, could the Big Ten and SEC get as many as four automatic bids? Those early discussions were had Wednesday, with no definitive conclusions.

Everything, of course, boils down to finances. The Big Ten and SEC have made it clear the next contract will be more financially favorable than the current one, where 80% of the money is split evenly among the Power 5 leagues. Now there are four power conferences, and the Big Ten and SEC have a combined 34 teams.

While officials didn't dive too deep into financial issues at Wednesday's meeting, Hancock said there was "more ground-level, detailed conversation than we've been able to have."

"I think everybody rolled up their sleeves and just said, 'We need to get to work and share what's on our mind,' and they all did," he said.

There has been a push, especially from the Big Ten, for an increase in automatic qualifiers for the CFP. Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti has made it clear that he values the regular season and believes that increasing automatic qualifier spots could assure that late-season games have higher stakes.

"We want fans to think that you know a game in the second week of November, even if you've already lost two or three games, still has a lot of value," Petitti told ESPN last week. "That's the goal."

A 14-team playoff would likely mean that the highest-ranked conference champions end up with a bye, which would incentivize those league title games. From there, the format would play out like the 12-team playoff that is debuting this season.

ESPN reported earlier this month that Petitti discussed bigger formats for the CFP in a fall meeting. The reasoning is simple math: His league will have 18 teams starting next season with the addition of USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington. The SEC will have 16 teams with the addition of Oklahoma and Texas.

"Today included lengthy and in-depth discussions about the future of the CFP -- 2026 and beyond," ACC commissioner Jim Phillips told ESPN. "Overall, it was a full day of candid conversations that included both positive elements as well as difficult differences that need further collaboration.

"Three areas in particular were addressed -- governance, access/format and revenue distribution. All voices were heard, and we collectively agreed to move forward together as there is more work to be done."