According to sources, the Rose Bowl and the College Football Playoff have reached an agreement that will allow the tournament to grow to 12 teams starting in 2024. The Rose Bowl had been given by the CFP until the end of the week, at the very least, to accept terms that it had been reluctance to do so.
A formal announcement of a 12-team playoff taking place in 2024 and 2025 is anticipated shortly with the addition of the Rose Bowl. The CFP Board of Managers initially approved the new format in September.
The Rose Bowl had been insisting on playing its game at its customary time of 5 p.m. ET on January 1 despite playoff expansion potentially affecting the bowl schedule, but the specifics of the agreement have not yet been made public. One of the most significant time slots for sports broadcasting is that one. The Rose Bowl’s agreement usually gives that scheduling process a great deal more flexibility.
In an expanded playoff, the actual games take priority above the bowls that serve as the venues. By refusing to accept a more consistent scheduling schedule, the Rose Bowl would have put off expansion until 2026, when the CFP’s current contract with ESPN will expire. That might have prevented the Rose Bowl from participating in the selection process once a new deal was finalised, costing the parties involved an estimated $450 million in additional money.
As part of the CFP’s new media rights contract beginning in 2026, the Rose Bowl has suggested hosting CFP quarterfinals in 2024 and 2025 — possibly without their customary Big Ten and Pac-12 partners — in exchange for preserving its time slot, a person close to the situation told CBS Sports. That proposal was declined.
A individual involved in the CFP process simply responded, “They have none,” when asked what influence the Rose Bowl had in the procedure. Early expansion would not have been conceivable following this weekend’s conference finals due to the frenzied nature of bowl and playoff season, according to a CFP bowl official.
A 12-year agreement between the CFP and ESPN expires after the 2025 season, and it is now in its ninth year. With the exception of the Rose Bowl, all relevant stakeholders have already consented to the 12-team expansion for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. The New Year’s Six bowls, Notre Dame, and the 10 FBS conferences reached an agreement on matters like playing on campus, scheduling games, and revenue sharing for early expansion. The decision to begin expansion early, however, required consensus.
Every BCS/CFP scheduling choice made throughout the years, up to this point, has allowed the Rose Bowl to broadcast its game at its preferred time slot of 5 p.m. on or around New Year’s Day. Historically, the game has been placed right after the Parade’s Tournament of Roses. One of the most famous settings in American sports was created because of the timing of the game, when the sun always sank in the west over the San Gabriel Mountains.
The CFP’s administrators were less tolerant of complying with the Rose Bowl’s demands as it prepared to grow. When, for the first time, the perception is that the games are more significant than the bowl venues, that 5 p.m. time slot will be too valuable.
The 5 p.m. time slot is “It’s the equivalent of Super Bowl Sunday,” according to a source in the industry. “New Year’s Day is kind of like a Sunday, even if it’s not on a Sunday. Everybody is hung over from New Year’s Eve. They’re sitting back, it’s 5 o’clock. Everybody is done with what they need to do. It is the best window that there is.”
The main motivations for expanding early are to give more teams playoff entry and to obtain an additional $450 million annually from rightsholder ESPN so that it can telecast the extra CFP games in 2024 and 2025. For 2026 and thereafter, a new media rights agreement will have to be struck.
It was unclear what bargaining power the Rose Bowl thought it had. That broadcast window is crucial, and CFP stakeholders were tired of working around the Rose Bowl’s needs under a contract that dates back over 25 years.
In 1998, the first year of the BCS, the Rose Bowl started to give up its exclusivity. It had already agreed to put a stop to a streak dating back to 1947 that featured both the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions. The Rose Bowl gave up one of its two spots in a rotation to host the BCS Championship Game as part of the BCS agreement. That first happened following the 2001 year, when Miami defeated Nebraska to win its final national championship. After 55 years of the Big Ten taking against the Pac-8/10, both schools at the time discussed how they were supposed to feel alienated.
It was guaranteed that the Rose Bowl will never play home to a national championship when the CFP first started in 2014. The new SoFi Stadium was being built in Los Angeles, and Pasadena lacked the resources to outbid Los Angeles. The 2023 CFP National Championship will take place in SoFi. Since 2014, the Rose Bowl has hosted the College Football Playoff semifinals in 2015, 2018, and 2021.
“The luster of that game goes away [if the Rose doesn’t agree],” said one bowl executive outside the CFP system. Maybe the Rose Bowl just has to give in, suck it up. It’s just who blinks first.”
On Wednesday night, the Rose Bowl blinked.