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Hitting the pause button on playoff expansion

SEC checks and balances (and spite)
One of the main reasons the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC linked up to form a public alliance is to counter the SEC’s consolidation of power. Those leagues do not want the SEC to run roughshod over college football. The three allied commissioners believe it’s important to have a system of checks and balances in major college sports. For a long time, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and SEC commissioner Mike Slive provided that to one another. Now, there are three new commissioners who may not yet have the gravitas to do it alone but feel they can provide a counterpunch together.

And then there’s the Big 12, where feelings toward the SEC are on an entirely different level.

Bowlsby has used the word “betrayal” to explain his feelings over the past seven weeks, and it’s easy to apply that sentiment to both Sankey and school leadership at Oklahoma and Texas. He and Sankey met periodically over a two-year period to work on CFP expansion together. Bowlsby even went out of his way to give “particular credit” to Sankey when they announced the 12-team proposal “because the SEC is going to do just fine whether we stay at four or go to eight or move to some other number, and I really feel like everybody that was in the room was looking at this from the standpoint of what is best for college football and what is best for the participants.”

Bowlsby and other administrators in the Big 12 certainly feel differently about Sankey’s role now in supporting a model with six at-large teams that would undoubtedly be dominated by an SEC strengthened by CFP regular Oklahoma and, perhaps eventually, by Texas, too. There is still a great deal of anger and distrust between members of this league and those in the SEC. Why would the Big 12 of all leagues vote to support something that benefits the SEC? (This is a rhetorical question.)

Separately, why would the Big Ten support an SEC-approved model, even if it would likely send more teams each year, too? Why would leadership in any of these leagues give the conference that wants as many at-large spots in the bracket as possible exactly what it wants? Do they really want a Playoff field that is half-SEC every year? (They don’t.)

West Virginia president Gordon Gee, who represents the Big 12 on the CFP board of directors, recently told the WVU student newspaper that he would not vote for an expanded field right now, citing instability in college athletics and saying the 12-team proposal was “on life support.” He added that he didn’t expect the Big Ten or the Pac-12 to vote in support of it, either.

It also might be worth waiting to see what happens with the Big 12 before the other leagues agree to a model that designates automatic qualifiers for a certain number of conference champions. If the revamped Big 12 isn’t exactly the power player the current version is, should the expanded CFP still set aside spots for the top six conference champions? Perhaps it’s worth letting the dust settle on realignment before locking any of that in.

The business sense of waiting until 2026
Administrators in each of the four non-SEC power conferences expressed serious concerns about ESPN’s influence over college football — especially in the wake of its new 10-year, $3 billion deal with the SEC negotiated before the additions of Oklahoma and Texas — and they believe it’s worth waiting until the original contract runs out in 2026 to expand if that means multiple media partners can get involved in the postseason’s marquee event.

ESPN’s contract with the CFP expires at the end of the 2025 season; if the CFP were to expand sooner than 2026, ESPN would have an exclusive window in which to renegotiate. With an expanded field comes more teams and more rounds of games, and splitting up those games among multiple willing broadcast partners, a la the NFL, could increase the payouts for all involved.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren came to college sports from the NFL and has specifically mentioned Fox, CBS, NBC and streaming services as potential new partners worth exploring. Even though the Big Ten is well-positioned financially, it still would want to maximize future CFP revenue and allow its business partners to bid on a valuable property; the Big Ten and Pac-12 both currently split their tier-one rights between ESPN and Fox.


Posted: 09/22/2021 at 11:47AM


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Current Thread:
Hitting the pause button on playoff expansion -- goldendomer 09/22/2021 11:47AM
  Here is how this is going to go down... -- 133193Hokie 09/22/2021 4:22PM
  True ** -- goldendomer 09/22/2021 11:09PM
  SEC/ND won't support 8 Team CFP with Qualifiers. -- HOO86 09/22/2021 12:16PM
  ND and the SEC will not accept that model. -- goldendomer 09/22/2021 12:27PM
  At the end of the day -- Vippie1 09/22/2021 2:27PM
  IDK, Brutus and Judas still have image problems -- daveinop 09/22/2021 1:46PM
  It doesn't need to be any more than 4. -- HOO86 09/22/2021 12:38PM
  It is going to (12). The only question is -- 133193Hokie 09/22/2021 12:49PM
  One no vote and it won't be 12. ** -- Stech 09/22/2021 1:08PM
  I believe they will wait till 2025 ** -- goldendomer 09/22/2021 12:51PM
  If they don't have the votes, they'll have to. -- HOO86 09/22/2021 1:09PM
  Yep, and anyone that was naive enough to think that -- 133193Hokie 09/22/2021 12:51PM
  Andy Staples hot take -- goldendomer 09/22/2021 12:29PM

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