College Football Playoff expansion talk to continue with new faces

NEW ORLEANS -- Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, who replaced retired long-term conference leader Jim Delany on Jan. 2, said he wants to gather more information and have more discussions before he takes a public stance on whether the College Football Playoff should expand.

Warren, the former COO of the Minnesota Vikings, will attend his first College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App). Earlier that morning, he will attend his first meeting as a member of the CFP Management Committee, which is comprised of the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

While no changes to the four-team system are imminent, expansion will continue to be a topic of discussion. Warren's voice will be influential in decisions ultimately driven by the Power 5 leaders.

"We have to ask ourselves what's in the best interest of the student-athletes for them to be able to get a world-class education and participate and to remain healthy -- healthy mentally, and physically, and emotionally and spiritually," Warren, the first African American Power 5 commissioner, said in an interview with ESPN.

"If we do that, and we get people in the room to say, 'If they were my son, or that were my grandson, and I would be comfortable with whatever decision is made,' then we'll know when that is right. No matter what we do, we have to put the best interests of the student-athletes at the center. We have to remember they are not professional athletes and they should not be held to a standard to win a national championship by playing 20 games."

Warren's son, Powers, is a tight end for Mississippi State. Warren said that experience will help guide him through the playoff discussions.

"I live it," Warren said. "The decisions I recommend, it's not something I read in a book. That's my son. How would I feel if Powers, who's my blood ... is now impacted by those results [of my decisions]? That would be very easy to figure out.

"That's where I will challenge others to look at it. Put your son and grandson in that position -- a decision we make, how will it impact them? ... We'll make the right decision."

The question is when.

The CFP is at the halfway point of the 12-year contract, and any significant changes to the system -- either during the contract or as part of a new one -- would take a few years to implement.

"We've got a little bit of a window here in which we have some decisions to make," Mid-American Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. "While I don't think that window has been defined, I think we all are aware that we've got a little bit of a clock on us to make some decisions."

ACC commissioner John Swofford said he is still in favor of four teams, but that the six-year mark is a good time to again put the system under the microscope.

"What we've done so far has certainly been successful," Swofford said. "But with any endeavor, it can always be better."

Steinbrecher said "the easy answer" for the Group of 5 conferences would be an eight-team playoff in which one of their conference champions was guaranteed a spot, but it's not an easy decision.

"We have to think about the whole system," Steinbrecher said. "It's an interesting system we've set up anyway. While it's not written that way, clearly we have five autonomous conferences and five non-autonomous conferences, and they get treated a little differently."

Warren isn't the only rookie in the room. Keith Gill became the first African American commissioner of an FBS conference when he replaced Karl Benson at the Sun Belt Conference in March.

"One of the things that's important to me, and my background of when I played college football, the bowls are such a big part of college football and having that postseason access," Gill, who played running back at Duke, told ESPN on Friday. "I would hate to see the access for the Sun Belt go from five teams in the postseason bowl arrangements to one team as it relates to, 'if the football playoff changes.'

"I think the playoff works. I think there's a lot of positive aspects to it, and I was pleased with how much the folks in that room, my colleagues, really care about the game and are trying to do what's best for college football."

Steinbrecher said it's "too early to tell" how the new faces in the room will influence discussions moving forward.

"Kevin's not really been in the room for a meeting yet," Steinbrecher said. "Keith's been in for one or two. We'll have to see. That's going to be part of it, as our room changes. Different personalities, different points of view. Though, at the end of the day, we're hopefully representing the viewpoint of our membership."