College Football Playoff expansion would be ‘great news’ for USF, Bulls AD says

Michael Kelly, who used to work for the playoff, said a 12-team field would be big for the Bulls and the American Athletic Conference.
USF would welcome a bigger College Football Playoff bracket.
USF would welcome a bigger College Football Playoff bracket. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published June 24, 2021|Updated June 24, 2021

TAMPA — Count USF athletic director Michael Kelly among the supporters of a proposal to expand the College Football Playoff from four teams to 12.

“Let me just tell you: That is great news for the University of South Florida and for the American (Athletic Conference) in particular,” Kelly said Thursday during a wide-ranging news conference.

Related: How would College Football Playoff expansion affect the coaching carousel?

The most obvious reason Kelly likes the proposal is that it gives a clear national championship path for his conference and program.

No Group of Five team has ever made the playoff. But with a 12-team bracket, a team from one of those leagues would be guaranteed at least one spot. An AAC team likely would have made the field in five of the past seven seasons.

“Was it technically true that Coach (Jeff) Scott could sit in front his guys and say you can make the College Football Playoff? Yes, it’s technically true…” Kelly said. “But now you can look them in the eye and say, ‘Guys, with the schedule that we’ve got for the next 10 years, we put ourselves in position to win the American, there’s a very good chance we’re going to the College Football Playoff.’ And that’s big time.”

Kelly said there still will be revenue gaps between programs and conferences, but an expanded playoff would be a “great revenue generator possibility” for the Bulls, which could help grow the operating budget and fund facilities upgrades.

A side effect of the proposal is that it would eliminate a phrase Kelly and other AAC officials don’t like; with no guaranteed playoff spots, “Group of Five” would no longer make sense.

“It shouldn’t exist,” Kelly said. “It certainly shouldn’t be a stigma, especially when you’ve had the type of success that the American has had over the past couple years.”

Kelly, who was the CFP’s chief operating officer from 2012-18, said he figured expansion was inevitable. That’s the way the sport has evolved over the past quarter century.

A bigger bracket, assuming it happens, won’t be approved before September and wouldn’t be instituted until the 2023-24 season at the earliest. But Kelly is hopeful the progress continues.

“I think it’s the right next step,” Kelly said. “Certainly from our vantage point, I think it’s great news. I really hope that continues in that regard.”

• • •

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.