UCF finally gets company amid push to expand College Football Playoff championship format

UCF athletics director Danny White stood mostly alone for months.

When asked why he declared the 2017 undefeated Knights national champions, he pointed to a Football Bowl Subdivision postseason model that never gave the Knights a chance to play for a championship.

White vocally argued the playoff format was unfair to all Group of 5 teams.

He took jabs and jeers with a smile, countering the criticism via social media and during a series of local and national media interviews.

With the Knights blocked from the playoff despite posting the nation's longest win streak spanning 25 games and some key issues elsewhere, White finally got some help dragging the playoff questions into the national spotlight.

West Virginia president Gordon Gee and Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez told The Athletic they think college leaders should discuss expanding the playoff format to eight teams now rather than waiting six years for the current playoff contract to expire.

“I also want to be very clear: I think that there’s arrogance of us not taking a look at someone like the University of Central Florida, just saying, ‘Well, they’re not worthy of it,’ ” Gee told The Athletic. “Maybe they are worthy of it based upon a number of considerations that need to be taken into account.”

Alvarez said, “UCF should have that opportunity.”

Gee and Alvarez, of course, represent schools that would benefit from playoff expansion.

Gee's Big 12 and Alvarez's Big Ten have struggled to consistently earn access to the playoff and lamented bias in favor of the Southeastern Conference when setting the four-team playoff field.

The Pac-12 also has been shut out of the playoff.

It was especially tough for the leagues to accept the SEC getting two teams into the playoff last year in Alabama and Georgia.

Chuck Neinas, a former Big 12 commissioner and veteran college football leader, told The Athletic he has suggested an eight-team playoff that would include five Power 5 teams, the Group of 5 champion and two at-large spots. Conference championship games would be eliminated. The regular season would end after Thanksgiving, with quarterfinal games played on campuses the following weekend. The winners advance to the New Year's Six semifinal games and then on to the championship matchup.

There has never been a shortage of proposals to expand the playoff.

There has, however, been a shortage of support for such moves.

Six sources who work within college athletics and on bowl committees have told the Orlando Sentinel there has been zero support among university presidents, conference commissioners and bowl leaders who would all need to support a change in the college football postseason format.

“I thought for sure we would hear calls for change when two SEC teams got into the playoff, but it just hasn't happened,” one source said.

Last year, the SEC took home about $70 million, according to Forbes.

The American Athletic Conference got $4 million from UCF's Peach Bowl appearance and a share of $81.32 million split among all the Group of 5 conferences, which likely was about $16.3 million.

The gulf between the Power 5 and Group of 5 payouts is vast, but the difference in revenue between a Power 5 league sending a team to the playoff semifinals and getting shut out of the semifinals is much smaller.

As a result, there is little incentive for Power 5 leagues to force change that might lead to reduction of their share of revenue as the the playoff expands and lucrative championship games disappear.

Gee's remarks, however, may spark a more extensive conversation about potential changes and critics of the current playoff format may finally feel comfortable stepping forward to push back against the current postseason format.

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