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Actually, The CFP Not Expanding is Good for UCF

Yes, it’s a good thing. Walk with me.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 10 CFP National Championship Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last Friday, the College Football Playoff Board of Managers, a group of 11 presidents representing the ten conferences and Notre Dame, voted 8-3 to expand the CFP from four to twelve teams. With the CFP still being under contract, it required a unanimous vote. With it failing, this means there will be no expansion before the end of the contract in 2026.

I told you so.

Since being announced last year, I had gone on the record multiple times on the Banneret and Twitter saying that this wasn’t happening. There were too many moving parts. You had the conference commissioners, presidential representatives, and media partners. Changing the CFP would have required a whole new media deal. This opens a whole can of worms.

So who voted against the CFP expansion? The Big Ten, PAC 12, and ACC. “The Alliance.” Thank you, guys. Because of you, we take a short-term hit of being stuck and four but open the door to make things better for everyone long-term. Well, almost everyone.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 04 Big Ten Championship Game - Michigan v Iowa
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What changes for the UCF Knights football program? Nothing. Nothing changes. It remains status quo for the Knights. This is actually a good thing for UCF. You might not think so now, but it is. Let’s take a walk and talk about it.

UCF’s final season in the AAC is believed to be 2022-23 and the expectation is that they will join the Big 12 before the 2023 season. Any changes to the CFP would have not happened until 2024 at the earliest. For reference, the contract ends in 2026. For the few seasons UCF will be in the Big 12 under the old contract, they will get a portion of the $57 million each of the Power 5 conferences get and will still have an automatic bid to the Sugar Bowl. So while nothing changes for UCF, everything changes.

“But Mike Aresco wrote that letter blah blah blah!”

Think about it. By 2024, the AAC would have lost three of the top four brands in the conference. As the top conference in the Group of Five, he was trying a Hail Mary to get the Alliance to do what was best for the AAC, which is immediate expansion. It was a desperate move for a desperate conference. When you’re getting crumbs, re-writing the contract would help.

Do you know what is not good for the Alliance? Immediate expansion.

One of the benefits of waiting until it’s time to create a new contract is the ability to take the CFP out to bid. Had it been done while still under contract and a new contract was drawn, it would be exclusively with ESPN, which gives “The Mothership” a massive amount of money and power. The Big Ten has expressed a desire to look at splitting the CFP with multiple networks, which would open the door for more money and less power and influence for ESPN.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 07 National Championship Game - Preview Scenes
ESPN has been intertwined with the CFP since its inception in 2014.
Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is good for UCF because it opens the door for more money and less control by ESPN. The Big 12 does not have a fully exclusive media deal with ESPN as the AAC does. Do you know who does, or will soon? The SEC.

Greg Sankey, the commissioner of the SEC, played a big role in designing the plan for CFP expansion. Shortly after he helped design the new plan, it was announced that Texas and Oklahoma were leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, which he helped orchestrate. Considering the media deal issue mentioned above, this created a massive trust problem with Sankey and the SEC. The perception now becomes that is a power play by the SEC and ESPN to open more slots for the conference in the money-making CFP and lock it under the ESPN banner for years to come. The Big Ten recognized this and did not go along with it.

2022 CFP National Championship - Georgia v Alabama
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Another issue is about access. The Alliance all want automatic bids for the power five conferences. That’s not really a big deal since only once have the P5 not been in the top six ranked conference champions.

OK, so you set six spots for the P5 champions and the top G5 champion. The next six become at-large selections. Here is where it gets juicy. The SEC wants full access so they can load up schools and bring in more power and revenue.

Do you know what would throw a monkey wrench into their plans while also not adversely impacting the other conferences materially? Conference caps. By capping the number of teams from a single conference in the playoffs, it would put more focus on being at the top of your conference. This also helps level the field a bit by opening more opportunities in other conferences, which should help recruiting.

The SEC would hate the idea of conference caps, but a new contract for the CFP only requires three of the five P5 conferences. The Big 12, who I have said very little about, wants to stay relevant, will go along with expansion, even with this new plan idea. They voted for expansion today for two reasons: They want it regardless, and it would also help with the mending of their relationship with ESPN, which took a hit when conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby went public accusing ESPN of trying to destabilize the league.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JUL 14 Big 12 Media Days
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby
Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Big Ten and Pac-12 will go for this new plan. The ACC will ultimately be pressured by the rest of the Alliance to go forward with this new plan, which they would benefit from. Sankey and the SEC have hinted at not going along with a 12-team model when a new contract needs to be drawn up, but if the 2022 CFP Championship Game is any indication, there might be some SEC fatigue going on. The 2022 CFP Championship Game averaged 22.6 million people, which is the second lowest number for a CFP/BCS championship game since 2005, only besting the covid-laden 2021 edition.

University of Georgia vs University of Alabama, 2022 CFP National Championship
Georgia won the 2022 College Football Playoff over Alabama with less than stellar TV ratings.
Set Number: X163902 TK1

In the end, with this new idea, you get a twelve-team playoff spread across multiple networks that would have a guaranteed spot for the Big 12 and cap the number of teams a conference can send, which would open the door for more opportunities for UCF to get in.

So yes, voting down the CFP expansion is a good thing for UCF. It just requires a change in perspective and a little patience. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.