Sandy Barbour, Penn State Football In Favor Of Playoff Expansion

College football is at a bit of an inflection point. Between bowl game opt-outs, the emergence of NIL, and playoff expansion talks, FBS fans and programs across the country are itching for something new.

For Penn State football and Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour, an expansion of the playoff could be a welcomed change. Barbour said Thursday ahead of the Nittany Lions’ Outback Bowl matchup with Arkansas that she’s in favor of including more teams in the College Football Playoff.

“I’m definitely in favor of expansion. Penn State is, James [Franklin] is,” Barbour said. “I think the number depends on some particulars around it…I think player health and safety needs to be at the forefront.”

Barbour explained that she looks at a playoff expansion as essentially an expanded season, which is where the health concerns come into play. If the playoff were to include 12 programs, lower-seeded teams could play up to four postseason games on top of a 12-game season.

While bowl games have been the norm for quite some time, adding that many extra weeks of practice, preparation, and play will surely have an impact on players’ bodies. Stars are already opting out of big games to avoid injury and prepare for the NFL Draft, which typically takes place in late April.

The College Football Playoff Board of Managers, which includes Penn State President Eric Barron, met in early December to discuss and vote on a potential playoff expansion. Final details couldn’t be hammered out, and talks were delayed to January. While Penn State is in favor of expansion, Barbour said that “the devil is always in the details.”

“It begs examination as to what role the bowl games play overall…you have to look at some of the logistics,” Barbour said. “The Big Ten Conference — We have great history and tradition with the Rose Bowl. So what’s the rose bowls place?”

The importance of games like the Rose Bowl has certainly been called into question recently, especially when they’re not included in the playoff. When considering expansion, whether it be to eight or 12 teams, restructuring TV and conference deals with big-name bowls will be a massive hurdle to cross.

Ohio State had its top two receivers — Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave — opt out of its matchup with Utah in Pasadena. Five of Penn State’s defensive starters will forgo the Outback Bowl along with star receiver Jahan Dotson. Expanding the playoff could be seen as a way to bring meaning to more than just three bowls and avoid future opt-outs.

“They’re going to have to do something with that,” quarterback Sean Clifford said. “I’m never going to tell a guy to play or not play. Obviously, I’d love to see all my guys and have one more ride with them, but I understand the flip side as a player.”

The current playoff system has been in place since the BCS was dissolved in 2014, and the playoff likely wouldn’t expand until at least the 2024 season should a final decision be made in January.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected].

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