The proposal to expand the College Football Playoff cleared a key hurdle Friday as commissioners from all the major conferences signed off on the 12-team model put forth last week by a working group.
“The process will move forward,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said Friday.
The next step in the transformation of college football’s postseason comes Tuesday, when the university presidents in charge of the CFP review the expansion model, which would create two additional rounds and provide greater access for conferences that have been left behind.
For example: the Pac-12.
Through seven years of the CFP, the Pac-12 has claimed only two of the 28 semifinal slots available: Oregon in 2014 and Washington in 2016.
With the playoff occupying a dominant role within the sport, the lack of steady participation has damaged the Pac-12’s brand nationally and created a competitive disadvantage on the recruiting trail.
Washington State president Kirk Schulz represents the Pac-12 on the Board of Managers and is expected to participate in the meeting next week.
Outgoing Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott attended the gathering this week in Chicago – his successor, George Kliavkoff, was also present – and took issue with one aspect of the current proposal: access for the Power Five champions.
Under the format moving through the approval pipeline, the six highest-ranked conference champions would receive automatic bids, along with six at-large teams.
But there are 10 conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision, so certain circumstances could result in a Power Five winner being left out.
Scott offered the following statement to the Hotline:
“The Pac-12 supports expansion of the CFP and believes that the (Power Five) champions should annually qualify for the CFP. We greatly appreciate the work of the CFP subcommittee, as well as the thoughtful and productive discussions amongst the management committee this week in Chicago. We now look forward to reviewing the expansion proposal more thoroughly with our members, student-athletes, partners and other key stakeholders.”
Also under the proposed expansion model:
•The 12-team format would begin in either 2023 or 2026.
•The four highest-ranked conference champions would receive byes in the opening round, while teams seeded Nos. 5 through 8 would play home games in the middle of December against the Nos. 9 through 12 seeds.
•The quarterfinals would be played Jan. 1-2 at neutral sites, followed by the semifinals and championship.
•There would be no limit to the number of berths for any single conference.
Approval next week by the university presidents would spark months of discussion between the commissioners and the football coaches and athletic directors.
“The first step is determining whether this new format is something people on campus even want to do,” Hancock said. “Almost everybody said, ‘We need more time to discuss this.’ ”
While the 12-team model creates greater access to the playoff for teams from coast to coast, it has not been fully vetted by many key campus stakeholders.
The unresolved specifics include the start date, the assimilation of the traditional bowl games into the format – including the Rose Bowl – and the specifics of the television contract.
“I don’t know why they have this thing on an express train,” a Pac-12 source said, referring to the public reveal last week of the 12-team model.
If approved, the four-round event potentially could triple the Pac-12’s playoff revenue from about $9 million per school per year to $27 million annually, according to data published this week by the Hotline.
The format, however, doesn’t guarantee participation for any conference and, as Scott’s comment indicated, stops short of fulfilling one of the Pac-12’s greatest needs: a guaranteed berth to the sport’s showcase event.
If the Pac-12 champion finishes behind its peers from six other conferences, it would fall into the pool of teams competing for an at-large bid.
How might that scenario unfold?
At the same time, an expanded playoff would create the opportunity for the Pac-12 to claim multiple bids, with its champion and an at-large team (or two) meeting the qualification standards.
An expanded CFP assuredly would raise interest in the regular season by keeping more teams in contention deep into November.
But so great is the CFP’s impact that an expanded format likely would force the Pac-12 to re-evaluate the structure of its football season. Would the conference be better off keeping the division format, or moving to a single, 12-team conference in which the top two finishers would meet in the championship game.
That would eliminate the potential for an unranked division champion to upset a highly ranked division champion and effectively undercut the Pac-12’s pursuit of an automatic berth.
Said a source: “There’s an interconnectedness to every decision we make.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.