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Football: Why Billy Napier, Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns love 12-team college football playoff idea

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, August 19, 2021

When the idea of expanding the College Football Playoff from four teams to 12 was proposed, UL officials were giddy.

Such a move would bypass the step conventional wisdom previously suggested would be next, an eight-team field.

It also would open the door to bona fide CFP access for Group of Five programs, not just the minute chance they have now.

“I do feel strongly that the 12-team format would benefit the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns,” said coach Billy Napier, whose team is ranked No. 23 in the preseason USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll and Associated Press Top 25.  

“We love it,” Cajuns athletic director Bryan Maggard added. “I love it.”

Texas, Oklahoma complications

The proposal came from a CFP subcommittee in June, and the CFP’s board of managers later approved it for further review.

When plans for Texas and Oklahoma to bolt from the Big 12 for the SEC broke in late July, however, Maggard was concerned conference realignment matters could delay CFP expansion possibilities.

Further discussion is planned for September.

REALIGNMENT:What could happen to the Sun Belt as college football shifts

MAGGARD:How the Cajuns try to stay relevant as college football realigns again

PRESEASON CAMP:What we know about UL football early on

“I certainly hope, and I really believe, at least of now, that that model revision is going to happen,” Maggard said.

“I’ve heard some talk about that maybe this … move of Texas and Oklahoma, and any fallout after that, might delay (it). So maybe 2023 is the year.”

No matter how long the wait, though, there’s no doubt the No. 23 Cajuns favor it happening.

Current CFP setup

Currently the top-ranked Group of Five champion is guaranteed a New Year’s bowl slot. UL contended for that as a Sun Belt Conference co-champion last season, but AAC champion Cincinnati went to the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Since the playoff system started in 2014, however, only Power Five programs have made the four-team field.

Alabama has gone six times in seven years, Clemson made it the last six seasons, Ohio State and Oklahoma have four appearances each and LSU went when it won the 2019 national championship.

The highest-ranked Group of Five programs have been Central Florida, ranked eighth in the 2008 season, and Cincinnati, which was eighth last season.

Had there been a 12-team playoff last year, Coastal Carolina of the Sun Belt would have been in the field.

Coastal, which shared last year’s championship with UL after the Sun Belt title game was canceled because of a COVID-19 outbreak within the Chanticleers program, was 12th in the final CFP.

UL was 19th.

Keith Gill’s stance

Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gill, who sits on an 11-member CFP management committee that also approved further study of the proposal, likes the idea. 

“From a Sun Belt perspective we wanted to make sure that any new framework provided us with a legitimate opportunity for a playoff spot," he said. “I believe the proposed framework does just that. … As I sit here right now, it seems like a pretty positive thing.”

As proposed, a 12-team field would include the six top-ranked conference champions, including one from the Group of Five, and six at-large bids, with no automatic qualifiers and no limit on participants from one conference.

That means real hope for more than just college football’s bluebloods.

It’s why Maggard’s stance on the matter is clear.

“One, we fully support it,” he said. “Two, we’re very excited about it.

“And then, three, it absolutely is our hope and desire that that level of expansion occurs, because we believe that at the University of Louisiana we have a great path to being one of those 12 teams, being in this particular league and striving to dominate this league.”