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Iowa AD Gary Barta 'OK’ with 12-team College Football Playoff, anticipates Big Ten decision on divisions soon
Barta has ‘not yet heard anything’ appealing for Iowa regarding further Big Ten expansion
IOWA CITY — Iowa athletics director Gary Barta is a clear fan of College Football Playoff expansion.
“I’ve always been interested and supportive of expansion,” Barta said Thursday.
Now, more of his counterparts at other schools seem to be feeling the same way.
“I’m feeling more momentum with my colleagues around the country, as well as in the Big Ten, to see if we can push this thing forward,” Barta said.
Multiple reports from national media outlets — including Sports Illustrated, ESPN and CBS Sports — have said the CFP’s 11-person board of managers will meet virtually Friday to discuss and possibly vote on expansion to 12 teams.
“I keep hearing that 12 might be the number,” Barta said after Iowa’s monthly presidential committee on athletics meeting.
Barta said he would be “OK” with a 12-team CFP.
“The old saying, ‘The devil’s in the details,’” Barta said. “It’ll depend on, ‘Does that include the Big Ten championship? Where does the Rose Bowl fit in that?’ So I’m not ready to say, ‘Absolutely, let’s go.’”
An expansion vote must be unanimous to be approved. The committee has representation from the 10 FBS conferences and Notre Dame.
Barta’s “sense” is “there will be more consensus” on how many automatic qualifiers are necessary than in past conversations.
Barta anticipates the “actual logistics” of what a 12-team field would look like, including how many games at campus sites, having to be revisited.
“I think the starting point is, ‘Are we going to expand? If so, to how large?’” Barta said. “What are the most important items? … If everybody agrees on that, let’s go. And then we’d have to work on the details.”
Future Big Ten expansion no longer ‘hot button’ topic
Barta said further Big Ten expansion no longer seems to be a “hot button” topic after the additions of USC and UCLA.
“I’ve not yet heard anything that would get me at Iowa — so I’m just speaking for Iowa — to say, ‘Let’s continue expanding,’” Barta said. “But that’s one person’s opinion. I won’t speak for the conference.”
Barta said the media rights implications of expansion are “important,” but also “just one criteria.”
“Whatever upside Iowa will receive from the new TV contract — I’m certainly not going to be interested in supporting additional expansion if that means Iowa would get less,” Barta said.
Participation in the Association of American Universities historically has been important to the Big Ten, but Barta said “that’s never been written criteria.”
“I don’t know if Notre Dame is an AAU,” Barta said. “If that became a discussion, would that be a deal-breaker? I haven’t heard that.”
Decision on football divisions looming
Now that the Big Ten has its media rights agreement settled, Barta said the decision about whether to eliminate or restructure football divisions “rises to the top of the list.”
“We really now need to make a final decision, and I think we’re really close on the contests, the divisions for football,” Barta said.
Barta previously predicted that 2023 would “stay the way we are,” and then a change would coincide with UCLA and USC’s additions in 2024.
But he left the door open Thursday for “making a decision that starts in 2023 that has consistency going into ‘24.”
The elimination of divisions before 2023 and then an adjustment to the cycle of opponents is “one scenario we’ve been presented,” Barta said.
Whatever the end result is, Barta expressed the need for urgency.
“We’ve got to get to that ASAP,” Barta said, “because we’re all kind of in a holding pattern on our schedules.”
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