“Truly unified” in favor of the expansion of CFP in 24

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — ACC commissioner Jim Phillips told ESPN on Wednesday that “there’s a lot of pressure” to expand the college football playoffs into 2024.

The CFP board voted in early September to expand the playoffs to 12 teams in 2026, but the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick worked on the expansion two years earlier.

“We’re trying. We’re committed to it,” Phillips told ESPN during ACC Basketball Media Day. “We really are, across 10 conferences and Notre Dame. We feel really good about the work that’s been done across 10 conferences and Notre Dame for the last five or six months. We’re really united in trying to do that. It’s just the logistics of this thing is difficult, not insurmountable, but time is not our friend right now, time is not on our side.

“There’s a lot of pressure to try and get things done.”

Phillips also said “it’s time to consider” expanding NCAA basketball tournaments. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey opened the conversation in August, telling Sports Illustrated he was ready to take a “fresh look” at the tournament.

Since then, the debate has intensified in the sport, although it seems any potential change is barely at the exploratory stage.

“It’s the crown jewel of all our championships,” Phillips told ESPN. “There’s nothing that really duplicates it, on both sides, on the men’s side and on the women’s side. So you have to be respectful not to mess it up either, and understand that it’s in a really good place. and healthy. But you also continue to be progressive, and I try to think of these things that way.

“I am convinced that the [automatic qualifiers] and winning a championship counts. It should matter. I’m not interested in reducing QAs. I am not. But I am also committed to ensuring that those who deserve to participate in a tournament do so. …You’re trying to balance access across Division I. Make sure the QAs stay there for conferences. They need this. They need it for the financial aspect, they need it for the emotional aspect, to be part of it, etc. But you also have a group that, at the highest level, is demanding more access for its teams. This leads to a discussion that we need to take a holistic perspective and review college basketball and the tournament.”

Phillips said the logistics of such an expansion – the timing, the format, the financial aspect – have not yet been determined, but there is interest in exploring it.

“More access, more opportunity for more young men and women,” he said. “There are a lot of positives to that.”

ACC coaches were split on whether to expand NCAA tournaments. Miami’s Jim Larranaga and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim were in favor, each with their own preferred format.

Larranaga would like to see all 32 conference champions receive byes, while 64 overall teams play in the first round.

“I’ve been a long-time supporter of expanding the NCAA tournament,” he said. “If you look at the mission of college basketball, the NCAA tournament 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, it really should have gone from 64 to 96.”

Boeheim would like to see the First Four at Dayton expanded to all first-round venues, which would allow the tournament to stay within its typical three-week window.

“I stood for this 25 years ago,” he said. “There are three times as much good [programs] than when we had 48 teams in the tournament. Putting money into good schools. It’s not a difficult extension. The argument I’ve heard is that it dilutes the tournament, which is nonsense. In fact, it makes the tournament better. … You have better teams in the tournament than before.”

Virginia’s Tony Bennett likes it as it is but wouldn’t mind a minor expansion.

“I think the NCAA Tournament is arguably the best, from start to finish, the best sporting event going,” Bennett said. “I don’t want to lose what we have. If we have a bit of expansion and it doesn’t take anything away and it’s not a major change, I would be for it. I would protect what we have, and if there are small tweaks, a few more here and there I would be for it, but not a major overhaul.”

Mike Young of Virginia Tech would opt for the status quo.

“I’m a purist,” Young said. “I don’t like it. … Why would anyone tackle something that has been so successful, that has been so unique in the world of athletics, that enjoys huge popularity and that has forever and ever?”


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