NCAA playoff expansion will not fix football

As the playoffs expand to 12 teams, questions of parity remain



The College Football Playoff Committtee expanded the playoff from four to 12 teams beginning in 2026.

Hayden Stinchfield, Evergreen sports co-editor

Since the current playoff system was put in place in 2014, college football fans have been wanting expansion, to make the Playoff National Championship into a system similar to the NFL or NBA. On Sept. 2, the College Football Playoff’s board of managers voted to expand the playoffs from the current system of four to a 12-team bracket, according to CBS Sports.

Under the new system, the six highest-ranked Conference winners are in automatically, with the next six highest-ranked teams filling out the rest. Four conference champions will get a bye, with the 5-12 seeds playing against each other in the first round.

Many fans rejoiced when this vote went through after a history of failed propositions and votes. Frustration had arisen under the current system, under which some fans felt as though that same 5-6 teams were on their screens come January every year. This feeling is somewhat well-founded, as Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma make up more than half of the playoff teams ever under the four-team system and Alabama has missed the playoffs only once, according to the College Football Playoff.

While it certainly seems like expansion increases parity, this impression is likely an illusion. Certainly, expansion means making the playoffs has become an easier-to-achieve goal for smaller or less prestigious programs, but the value of the accomplishment has diminished.

For a few years, fans will still feel as though the playoffs are a big deal, as they do under the current system.

However, after the dust settles and fans realize the same 5 or 6 teams are still winning every year, odds are the luster of the new system will dim. Being the 12 seed will be a disappointment, not an achievement and those same powerhouse teams will demolish the schools that sneak their way in.

We got a preview of how a 12-team playoff game might go in Oregon’s “neutral site” opener in Atlanta, against University of Georgia. Oregon came into the game ranked 11th, while Georgia was ranked 3rd, a likely second-round matchup in a hypothetical 12-team bracket.

By the end of the first half, Georgia led Oregon 28 to 3 and that field goal was all the Ducks managed to get by the Bulldogs’ defense, ending in a 49-3 loss that knocked Oregon clear out of the rankings. It was one of the worst losses in program history, as the PAC-12 runner-up of last year was completely outmatched by last year’s national championship winners.

As of 2026, or potentially sooner, fans will be seeing these kinds of matchups yearly in what they are being told are important games. It will not take long before people realize the Alabamas and Georgias of the world still run college football on the national stage and the vote was never about parity or fairness, it was about having more games to sell more commercials over.