The 11 college presidents and chancellors who make up the College Football Playoff’s Board of Managers met via Zoom on Monday and began a discussion that could reshape the future of college sports, sources told ESPN.
Multiple sources told ESPN that the Board of Managers briefly discussed the possibility of restructuring how college football is governed, with the idea presented of major college football potentially being governed outside of the NCAA. The most logical place for the sport to be run outside of the NCAA would be under the auspices of the CFP, which was discussed on the call. The CFP currently oversees the sport’s postseason playoff and has contractual ties to other marquee postseason bowl games.
Sources cautioned that these discussions are in such early stages that it could be considered the first steps of a complicated process that would resemble a marathon. The sources added that the group spoke about the idea for only about five minutes, as it was raised as something the group should think more about down the line.
The conversation is significant, however, in that it’s the first known discussion among a group that would seemingly have the power to put such a plan in action. And the CFP looms as the most likely destination for running major college football outside the NCAA.
No action is imminent or known next steps planned. College football currently falls under the NCAA governance rules structure. Unlike most college sports, the organization does not run any part of the sport’s postseason. Leaving from the NCAA governance structure would allow the sport autonomy in rules making and not being tethered in decision making to smaller-budgeted schools.
The CFP Board of Managers consists of presidents from all 10 major conferences and Rev. John Jenkins of Notre Dame. It includes significant figures like Mississippi State president Mark Keenum, Clemson president Jim Clements and Ohio State president Kristina Johnson.
The CFP Board of Managers don’t meet nearly as frequently as the College Football Playoff Management Committee, which consists of the 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. The commissioners and Swarbrick were not on the call on Monday.
One other item discussed on the call was the notion that the next iteration of the College Football Playoff — whatever that would look like — could be put into place before the end of the current CFP contract. That contract has four seasons remaining and runs out after the 2025 season.
A source told ESPN that the general feel among the presidents and chancellors on the call was that the college sports leaders have left too much money on the table by not implementing a new playoff before 2026, perhaps as much as a half-billion dollars. Much of the obstruction to the 12-team playoff appears to have dissipated, as media day comments from multiple leaders revealed some of the obstacles now appear to have been more performative than grounded in reality.
While there’s still a lot of work to be done — including an agreement on a format — the door remains open for discussion of finding a new deal that could potentially be put in place for the final two seasons of the contract. That idea was perpetuated by Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff at Pac-12 media days in late July.
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