CFP expansion ‘not finished,’ still working toward 12 in 2024

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DALLAS — The third in-person meeting of conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff since an August directive from their bosses to expand the postseason format ended without a resolution, but not without optimism.

“There’s a will to try and that will is still there,” Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey said Thursday.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 major college football conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, met for six hours at an airport hotel to work on a plan to triple the number of playoff teams from four to 12 for the 2024 season.

“We’re not finished,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said. “It is true that time is not on our side, but we haven’t given ourselves a deadline. It’s more important to get the work done right.”

Hancock said the management committee plans to meet again soon, likely by video conference, but did not have an exact day.

The task is tricky because the postseason schedule is already set for the 2024 and ’25 seasons based on the current four-team format. The College Football Playoff’s 12-year deal with ESPN expires following the 2025 season.

“We put a calendar on the wall. We want to make sure we’re aware of holidays, NFL game days. Commencements,” Hancock said, ticking off some of the items the CFP needs to consider.

The job now is to add four first-round games to be played in mid-December on the campuses of the better-seeded teams and figure out the best days to play them.

From there the quarterfinals will be played on and around New Year’s Day, with the semifinals about a week after that and the championship at least another week later.

“I’d suggest to you each round has some interesting issues around them,” Mid-American Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “And depending on where you put the pin in one week, it moves where that next set of things goes and then what are you bumping up into that week? Whether it’s access to certain stadiums, NFL games that could be playing, rest periods. So they’re all interconnected.”

American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco said: “Spacing the games is crucial. You can’t have (a team) having way more rest than somebody else.”

Hancock said Atlanta and Miami, which were chosen as host cities for the 2024 and ’25 championship games in a four-team format, have indicated they will be able to accommodate the games on a later date.

This time last year the management committee was in the midst of seven months of haggling over whether to expand and how frustrations growing with every meeting. This year there are no dissenters in the group. Just logistics that need to be sorted out.

“It’s been a fascinating process because every time you turn over one stone you start tripping other issues,” Steinbrecher said. “And it’s more challenging than I would maybe have imagined. But we’re getting there.”

The university presidents who oversee the CFP took control of the process this last summer, approved a 12-team expansion plan that was first unveiled in May 2021 and directed the commissioners to make it happen by 2024, if possible, and 2026 at the latest.

Expanding the playoff early could be worth an additional $450 million in gross revenue from media rights in 2024 and ’25 for the schools that compete in major college football.

“At some point, you have to fish or cut bait to get this done,” Aresco said. “And we kind of have a sense of where we’re going to have to make those decisions. And we’re better informed in terms of the information we got today and a lot of the things we talked about.”

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.