Rose Bowl deal clears way for College Football Playoff 12-team expansion in 2024 and 2025

The Rose Bowl has signed an agreement with the College Football Playoff, paving the way for the event to expand to 12 teams starting in 2024, sources confirm to CBS Sports. The CFP awarded the Rose Bowl until the end of the week — at last — when the bowl was not yet ready to accept.

With the Rose Bowl now in the fold, a formal announcement of the 12 teams to play in 2024 and 2025 is expected soon. The new format was initially agreed upon by the CFP Board of Managers in September.

Although the terms of the deal the Rose Bowl signed are not yet known, and playoff expansion could affect the bowl schedule, the bowl will continue in its traditional time slot of Jan. 1 requested to play at 5 PM ET. That time slot is considered one of the most valuable on sports television. The agreement signed by the Rose Bowl creates significantly more flexibility in that planning process.

In an expanded playoff, the games are more important than the bowls that host the contests. The Rose Bowl’s refusal to adopt a more consistent scheduling policy would have delayed expansion until 2026 after the CFP’s current contract with ESPN expires. That would cost the parties involved $450 million in additional revenue and could keep the Rose Bowl out of the selection process once a new contract is signed.

The Rose Bowl has proposed hosting the CFP quarterfinals in 2024 and 2025 — possibly without their traditional Big Ten and Pac-12 partners — in exchange for keeping its timing as part of the CFP’s new media rights deal that begins in 2026, CBS Sports said. That offer was declined.

Asked what power the Rose Bowl had in the process, one person involved in the CFP process responded, “They had none.” A CFP bowl official said early expansion would have been impossible amid the rush of bowl and playoff season after this weekend’s conference championships.

The CFP is in the ninth year of a 12-year deal with ESPN that expires after the 2025 season. All necessary parties, except the Rose Bowl, have already agreed to expand to 12 teams for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. The 10 FBS conferences, Notre Dame and participating New Year’s Six bowls have agreed on matters such as playing at campus sites, dates of games and revenue distribution for early expansion. However, the advance expansion agreement must be unanimous.

Over the years, every BCS/CFP scheduling decision — until now — allowed the Rose Bowl to air its game on or around New Year’s Day in its preferred time slot of 5 p.m. The game is traditionally scheduled following the Tournament of Roses Parade. During the game the sun was always timed to set in the west over the San Gabriel Mountains, creating one of the most iconic settings in American sports.

As the CFP poised to expand, its handlers were less tolerant of meeting the Rose Bowl’s demands. The sense that games matter more than bowl sites — for the first time — will make the 5 p.m. slot more valuable in the future.

“It’s the equivalent of Super Bowl Sunday,” said an industry source of the 5 p.m. slot. “New Year’s Day is like Sunday, even if it’s not Sunday. Everyone’s hanging out on New Year’s Eve, and they’re sitting back and it’s 5 o’clock, and everyone’s done what they have to do. It’s the best window.”

The primary reasons for expanding earlier were to give teams more playoff access and to receive $450 million a year from franchise owner ESPN. This would allow additional CFP games to be broadcast in 2024 and 2025. A new media rights deal is due to be signed in 2026. and beyond.

It is unclear which force the Rose Bowl relied on in the negotiations. That broadcast window is valuable, and CFP stakeholders are tired of accommodating the Rose Bowl in an arrangement that dates back nearly a quarter century.

The Rose Bowl began dropping its exclusivity in 1998, the first year of the BCS. It then agreed to end the streak of Big Ten and Pac-12 champions dating back to 1947. game. It was the first since the 2001 season when Miami defeated Nebraska for its last national title. Big Ten vs. Both schools noted at the time how they must feel as outsiders after 55 consecutive years of Pac-8/10 playoffs.

When the CFP began in 2014, it was promised that the Rose Bowl would never host a national championship. Los Angeles was building the new SoFi Stadium, and the city of Pasadena did not host the 2023 CFP National Championship to outbid LA SoFi. Meanwhile, since 2014, the Rose Bowl has hosted the CFP semifinals in 2015, 2018 and 2021.

“The luster of that game will go away [if the Rose doesn’t agree],” said one bowl executive outside the CFP organization. Maybe the Rose Bowl should give it a go and suck it up. Whoever blinks first.”

On Wednesday night, the Rose Bowl blinked.

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