'12 is probably the right way to go': Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith on College Football Playoff expansion

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

INDIANAPOLIS — Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith is in support of a proposal to expand the College Football Playoff to 12 teams, asserting it will provide more opportunities for schools across the country to reach the field.

“I think the concept of inclusiveness is right,” Smith said Friday during Big Ten media days. 

There has been little parity since the four-team playoff was introduced in 2014. Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma have earned a combined 20 of the 28 spots. The Buckeyes have not missed the playoff since 2018.

Smith said he feels broadening participation in the postseason could be beneficial for the entire sport.

“I’m not talking about us,” he said. “I’m talking about the opportunities for others. For college football across the board, that might make it better. So I’ve leaned in and thought 12 is probably the right way to go.”

In previous years, Smith said he was a proponent of expansion, but up to eight teams, a number that would have already doubled the size of the current bracket.

But momentum toward a 12-team playoff has sped up this summer. Last month, the 11 university presidents and chancellors who serve on the CFP’s board of managers approved a proposal to includes 12 teams.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith

While a few years remain before it could be put into effect, the 12-team bracket would feature the six conference champions and six other teams that qualify for at-large bids. The four highest-ranked conference title winners would receive a first-round byes before playing their first games in the quarterfinals.

As the longest-tenured athletic director in the Big Ten following the retirement of Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez, the perspective of Smith is likely to hold some sway within the conference. Kevin Warren, the league’s commissioner, is on the CFP’s management committee.   

Smith said he favors champions from the Power Five Conferences receiving automatic bids, but under the proposal, the sixth highest-ranked conference champions receive automatic qualification.

Other factors remain under consideration, including whether to play some of the games on campuses or at corporate bowl game sites.

Smith added he thinks expansion will add more interest to the regular season with more teams in contention for spots.

“Originally I was concerned about its impact on the regular season," Smith said, "but it will probably increase interest for the regular season across the board."

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jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman