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A group of five college football playoffs? G5 leaders are reportedly discussing their own postseason

As the college football conference realignment continues to reshuffle the landscape of the sport, numerous ideas have been discussed. One has been published, albeit not new, about the Group of Five.

According to multiple reports, G5 decision-makers have begun discussing the possibility of a Group of Five playoff and a possible separation from the Power Four.

Here’s more about the possibilities being discussed and what it could mean for the Group of Five conferences – the AAC, the Sun Belt, the MAC, the Mountain West and Conference USA.


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Group of five conferences discussing play-off possibilities

This isn’t the first time a G5-only play-off has been explored.

Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier has reportedly discussed both a G5 playoff in 2017 and even an NIT-style tournament for FBS teams that don’t make the College Football Playoff.

However, these kinds of ideas never really came close to being realized. For example, outgoing AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco often emphasized that even using the term “Group of Five” created a wider divide in the FBS landscape.

However, new commissioner Tim Pernetti said during his recent introductory press conference that the league is open to “maverick postseason models.”

A G5 playoff could take many forms, and would require the approval of all five conferences. That means leaders of those leagues must agree to several issues.

If these five conferences were split off, all 64 G5 teams would reportedly be split into eight-team divisions.

What would be the requirement for these programs to leave their current conferences if this were to happen in the form of a mass exodus? What would that mean for the current TV deals, which have been a major factor in the conference realignment in the first place? Would it be more profitable for the G5 to create its own playoffs instead of just taking away its current share of CFP revenue?

These are all crucial questions that need to be answered.

As for the financial aspect of it, a G5 play-off would likely include an element of private equity. Derek Dooley, a former head coach at Tennessee, has reportedly spoken to decision makers from every G5 league on behalf of private equity firms.

Dooley is clearly familiar with the G5 world, as he was also the head coach and athletic director at Louisiana Tech.

CBS Sports reported that Group of Five programs are unhappy with their share of College Football Playoff media rights revenue, which helped spark the G5-only playoff conversation.

What’s interesting is that the money each G5 school receives from the CFP media deal should increase from $1.5 million to $1.8 million starting in 2026. But the difference is that the percentage of the pot for the Group of Five decreases.

The entire collection of the Group of Five conferences will take 9% of the $1.3 billion per year that ESPN pays for the CFP media rights. That’s down from 22% under the previous deal. The Big Ten and SEC, meanwhile, will each own 29%.

It’s not clear how much money a G5 playoff would make or whether it would ultimately be more lucrative. But it would give those leagues more autonomy as the Power Four conferences continue to consolidate and gain more influence in decision-making at the FBS level.

What would a G5 play-off look like?

We at HERO Sports ran a fan-voted, hypothetical playoff on Twitter/X with seeding based on our Group of Five Top 25 postseason rankings.

The teams in the bracket were: No. 1 SMU, No. 2 JMU, No. 3 Liberty, No. 4 Memphis, No. 5 Tulane, No. 6 Troy, No. 7 Boise State, No. 8 UTSA, No. No. 9 App State, No. 10 Air Force, No. 11 Wyoming, No. 12 Miami (Ohio), No. 13 UNLV, No. 14 Toledo, No. 15 Fresno State and No. 16 Ohio.

JMU ultimately defeated App State in the championship. Wyoming and Memphis also made it to the final four.

There’s no telling what the format would be if a G5 playoff were to happen, and obviously the postseason would be decided on the field. But these are some examples of teams that could have made the field had there been a G5 postseason bracket in 2023.

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