Big Ten commish Kevin Warren is '100% supportive' of College Football Playoff expansion
INDIANAPOLIS — Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren is an advocate for expanding the College Football Playoff beyond the four-team format that has been in place for nearly a decade.
“I’m 100% supportive of playoff expansion,” Warren said during a news conference to open the conference’s media days.
It was one of the strongest public statements of support for expansion by Warren, who took over for Jim Delany as the conference’s commissioner two years ago.
Warren stopped short of offering up a specific proposal that included a number of participating teams or other qualifying factors, but expressed confidence that the variety of issues would be sorted out over the coming years.
“What is that right number? We’ll figure it out,” Warren said. “I’m confident we’ll get College Football Playoff expansion resolved.”
Momentum was growing for expansion of the postseason last summer after a Playoff subcommittee proposed a 12-team format that would include spots for six conference champions with the highest ranking by the selection committee and six at-large teams.
But talks stalled over the following months as the 10 conference commissioners within the Football Bowl Subdivision and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, a group that makes up the Playoff’s management committee, could not settle on the model.
The playoff committee announced in February that it would continue with a four-team field until its contract expires after the 2025 season.
As discussions continue, Warren said Tuesday that he believes a variety of factors should be considered, including sharing broadcast rights with multiple TV networks. It was something he said he feels “strongly” about.
ESPN has been the sole rightsholder for the playoff since 2014 and would have remained if expansion was taking effect prior to 2026. That leaves out others such as FOX, which is one of the Big Ten’s media rights partners and owns a majority stake in the Big Ten Network.
“We need to take a holistic view,” Warren said. “We need to make sure we protect some of the critical bowl relationships. As we work through all of those, whether it’s automatic qualifiers, whatever the case may be, I’m confident as we get these new individuals in the room, get these new issues on the table, that we’ll be able to reach some resolution. And again, make sure we ask ourselves the right questions at the right time for our student-athlete.”
One of those new individuals is Brett Yormark, who was selected as the Big 12’s commissioner last month, replacing Bob Bowlsby, who had been the longest-serving head of a Power Five Conference.
Four of the five Power Five commissioners have now been on the job since 2020.
Warren described Yormark, a sports executive who had been the chief operating officer of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation agency, as a “marketing wizard” and “very innovative.”
Warren also said he’s consulting with Ohio State president Kristina M. Johnson, who is now the Big Ten’s representative on the Playoff’s board of managers.
“Incredible leader,” Warren said. “To be able to get her ideas as far as what format is best, I’m looking forward to working with her.”
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith is also a supporter of Big Ten expansion.