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CFP field to expand, boosting Las Vegas’ chances to host title game

Updated September 2, 2022 - 1:45 pm

The College Football Playoff field will expand from four to 12 teams, increasing the chances of Las Vegas hosting the CFP national championship game as early as 2027.

Allegiant Stadium was considered for the 2025 title game, but an early- to mid-January scheduling conflict with the highly popular and lucrative Consumer Electronics Show nixed that possibility.

A 12-team playoff likely would push the championship game later into January, erasing that conflict and better positioning Las Vegas as a host site. Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said in a text message Friday that moving the game to later that month would “open up the opportunity for Las Vegas.”

“We would be thrilled to work with the CFP to host the college football national championship game,” Hill said. “We know it would be an exceptional event for both college football fans and our city.”

CFP executive director Bill Hancock didn’t speculate on future potential host cities but spoke highly of Las Vegas.

“We love what we’ve seen from Las Vegas,” Hancock said. “We hope some day we’ll be able to go there, but we’re just going to have to wait and see whether or not the dates fit in for Las Vegas or frankly for any other host city.”

Hancock said no decisions have been made on whether the national championship will be played later in January, but acknowledged that was the probable scenario.

“We have another two rounds of a tournament to play over the current two rounds,” he said. “So there will be four rounds, of course, and the way we’re looking at it now, it would be hard to squeeze all that in and still finish on the dates that we’re playing on now.”

The new playoff format, which could begin as early as the 2024 season and certainly by the 2026 one, will include the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large teams. The top four highest-ranked conference champions will receive first-round byes.

First-round games are expected to be played on the second or third weekend of December each at the site of the higher seed, either at the host stadium or another venue more capable of hosting such a game. For example, Southern California could play at its home site, the Coliseum, or SoFi Stadium.

Quarterfinal and semifinal games will be played at existing bowls, provided agreements are reached with those postseason games, and the national championship at a neutral site.

The CFP board of managers — made up of 11 presidents and chancellors — unanimously approved Friday to expand the field. UNLV president Keith Whitfield sits on that committee as the Mountain West representative.

“I believe the playoff expansion is good for college football and its fans, and my vote today reflects the collective support of the Mountain West conference board of directors and its (athletic directors),” Whitfield said.

The management committee of the 10 FBS conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick will have to approve the final model.

Even if the new playoff format begins in the 2024 season, the 2025 and 2026 title games already have been awarded — Atlanta and Miami Gardens, Florida.

As far as when an announcement would come on future sites, Hancock said he didn’t have that answer and to “sit tight.”

The CFP’s decision to expand the playoff field was applauded in statements by the Mountain West and Pac-12 Conference — the two leagues with the strongest ties to Las Vegas.

“I’m thrilled for college football student-athletes, coaches and fans and for the betterment of college football overall as it provides potential better access for the Mountain West champion,” MW commissioner Craig Thompson said.

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff, who lives in Las Vegas, didn’t directly offer a statement, but the conference office noted it was “strongly in favor of CFP expansion and welcomes the decision of the CFP Board. CFP expansion will provide increased access and excitement and is the right thing for our student-athletes and fans.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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