Charlotte, NC – ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips told ESPN Wednesday that “there is a lot of push” to expand College Football Playoff in 2024.
The CFP board voted in early September to expand the playoffs to 12 teams in 2026, but FBS’s 10 commissioners and Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick had been working on the expansion two years earlier.
“We’re trying. We’re committed to doing that,” Phillips told ESPN at the ACC Basketball Media Day. “We’re really, across 10 Conferences and Notre Dame. We feel really good about the work that’s been done across all 10 Conferences and Notre Dame in the last five or six months. We’re really united in trying to get that done. It’s just the logistics of this thing that’s tough, not insurmountable. But time is not our friend at the moment, time is not on our side.
“There’s a lot of pressure to try and get this thing done.”
Phillips also said “it’s time to consider” expanding the NCAA basketball tournaments. Securities and Exchange Commission Commissioner Greg Sankey opened the conversation in August, telling Sports Illustrated that he was willing to take a “new look” at the tournament.
Since then, the controversy has intensified in the sport, although it seems hardly any possible change is in the exploratory phase.
“It’s the crown jewel of all of our tournaments,” Phillips told ESPN. “There’s nothing really repeating it, on both sides, on the men’s side and on the ladies’ side. So you have to respect not messing with it either, and understand that it’s in a really good and healthy place. But you also have to keep moving forward, and I try to think of these things that way.”
“I believe that [automatic qualifiers] Winning a championship is important. It must be important. I’m not interested in decreasing AQs. I just am not. But I am also committed to making sure that those who deserve to be in the tournament should do so. …You’re trying to balance access across the first section. Ensure AQs stay there to attend conferences. They need it. They need it for the financial part of it, they need it for the emotional part of it, to be a part of it, etc. But you also have a group at the highest level who are demanding more reach for their teams. This only leads itself to a discussion, we need to take a comprehensive perspective and review college basketball and the championship.”
Phillips said the logistics of such an expansion – the calendar, form and financial aspect of it – have yet to be determined, but there is an interest in exploring them.
“More access, more opportunities for more young men and women,” he said. “There are a lot of pluses to that.”
ACC coaches have been split over whether to expand the NCAA tournaments. Jim Laranaga of Miami and Jim Boehme of Syracuse were supporters, and each had their own favorite format.
Larranaga would like to see all 32 conference champions bid farewell, while 64 top teams play in the first round.
“I’ve been a supporter of expanding the NCAA Championship for a long time,” he said. “If you look at the mission of college basketball, the NCAA Championship is the culmination of every player’s dream. But if you look at history, it’s always the same teams with a few exceptions. So, expanding the tournament to 96, you should really go from 64 to 96.”
Boeheim would like to see Dayton’s first four expanded to each of the first-round locations, which would allow the tournament to continue falling into its usual three-week window.
“I advocated for this 25 years ago,” he said. “There are three times more than good [programs] Than when we had 48 teams in the tournament. Putting money into good schools. It is not a difficult expansion. The argument I’ve heard is that it impairs heroism, and that’s nonsense. It actually makes the tournament better. … you have better teams in the tournament than you’ve ever had.”
Virginia’s Tony Bennett likes the way it is, but he wouldn’t be against a slight expansion.
“I think the NCAA Championships is the best, from start to finish, best athletic event going on,” Bennett said. “I don’t want to lose what we have. If we had a little expansion and it didn’t take away from us and it wasn’t a big shift, I would be. I’d protect what we have, and if there were a few tweaks, more here and there, I’d be for it, but not a big fix.”
Mike Young of Virginia Tech will choose the status quo.
“I’m a fundamentalist,” Young said. “I don’t like it. … Why would we run into something that was so successful, so unique to the world of athletics, so incredibly popular and has forever and ever?”