Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is opposed to a 12-team College Football Playoff

·4-min read

Count Clemson coach Dabo Swinney among the group that opposes expanding the College Football Playoff to 12 teams.

Swinney, who opposed the switch from the BCS to the four-team playoff, spoke with reporters Tuesday and said he knows further playoff expansion is inevitable, but it’s not a change he favors.

"I knew when it went to four, it was going to become all about the playoff, and when it goes to 12, it's going to become more about the playoff, but it's inevitable," Swinney said via ESPN. "Some people will say, 'Well you've been in the playoff. If we can get in with four, we're going to get in with 12.' Our odds aren't going to go down, so it's not about that.”

The College Football Playoff management committee formally proposed expanding the field from four teams to 12 last month. Soon after, the CFP’s board of managers authorized the management committee to take the next steps toward ironing out an updated format for the playoff. Part of that process includes speaking with players, coaches, athletic directors and other campus officials throughout the country.

According to Swinney, his own players oppose expanding the field to 12 as well. Clemson, of course, has been a mainstay during the CFP era. The Tigers have reached the CFP in six consecutive seasons and have won two national titles. The main point of contention among the players is adding games to an already lengthy season, Swinney said.

“They don’t want to play more games,” Swinney said.

Earlier this month, North Carolina coach Mack Brown said his players feel the same way. Though some would be OK with it expanding to six or eight teams, the UNC players feel like a 12-team playoff involves too many teams and would lead to too many games.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney poses with the championship trophy at a news conference for the NCAA college football playoff championship game Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney poses with the championship trophy at a news conference for the NCAA college football playoff championship game Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Swinney: Expanded CFP makes it more like the NFL

On top of that, Swinney isn’t sure there will be 12 teams worthy of a shot at the national championship. He’s also of the belief that an expanded playoff will diminish the significance of the regular season. In Swinney’s estimation, once a team has clinched a playoff spot, it could be compelled to rest its top players to avoid injury.

“To be honest with you, I don't know if there's 12 teams good enough. So you're going to play more games just to play more games,” Swinney said. “And I think the more you expand it, the less important the season becomes and the more you become the NFL. You're in the playoffs? Well, you know, why play Trevor [Lawrence] in this [regular season] game if you're already in? All of a sudden you're not in the top 12 and kids just aren't playing."

The CFP tasked a four-member working group — SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick — with exploring various avenues for potentially expanding the four-team field.

The group worked over the past two years, and emerged with a 12-team format as its preferred option. The 12-team bracket proposed in June would feature the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large teams. The top four conference champions would receive a first-round bye with the other eight teams playing first-round games on the campuses of the higher-ranked teams (No. 5 vs. No. 12, No. 6 vs. No. 11, No. 7 vs. No. 10, No. 8 vs. No. 9). The quarterfinal, semifinal and national title rounds would be neutral site games with involvement from the biggest bowl games.

Where that format differs from the NFL is the league-wide divisions. In the NFL, teams often wrap up a playoff spot and a specific seed in their conference before the conclusion of the regular season, making the final game of the regular season an opportunity to get some rest for top players. In college football, your team may be pretty much assured a spot in the CFP, but you'll still be fighting for a conference title and for the best possible seed. 

Though tweaks to the format could emerge as feedback is gathered over the course of the summer and into the fall, those differences could alleviate some of Swinney's concerns.

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