Will the new-found alliance between the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 stall College Football Playoff expansion?
That must be the leading question after listening to the commissioners from those three conferences explain their stance on the 12-team College Football Playoff proposal that was released earlier this season.
The three commissioners voiced that support for expansion. Just maybe not that expansion plan everyone is talking about.
“The Pac-12 is 100 percent in favor of expansion of the College Football Playoffs,” Pac-12 commissioner George Klaivkoff said at the commissioners’ press conference Tuesday. “There are issues at the margins.”
Klaivkoff is protecting the interest of the Pac-12, of course, a conference that hasn’t put a team in the CFP since 2016. ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said the conference still is not sure where it falls when it comes to approving the 12-team model.
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“They did excellent work providing analysis and an option for us to consider,” Phillips said of the subcommittee. “As we got all together in Dallas in June, the idea was that we were going to spend the rest of the summer until the third week of September when we reconvened socializing for the playoff.”
Of course, we know what happened next. The SEC added Texas and Oklahoma, and it wasn’t about socializing for the playoff. It’s certainly not about the socialization of the CFP across the entire FBS. It’s about three conferences trying to curb the power of the SEC when that might not be necessary at this time.
If the Alliance gets in the way of that expansion as part of a power struggle with the SEC, then this will be a failure from the start.
“I’m a big believer in expanding the College Football Playoff, but I’m also a big believer in being methodical and doing our homework,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said. “One of the things that I promised in our last CFP meeting was that we would do our homework.”
Warren should know the Big Ten is fine either way, especially when looking at the hypothetical 12-team model. If you rework the CFP the last seven seasons using a 12-team model, then you can see that.
If CFP had 12 teams from 2014-20 …
The Big Ten would have the most playoff teams (20) and most at-large berths (13) under that setup since 2014. The Big Ten would be the only conference that put multiple teams in the CFP every year.
That is, until you slide Oklahoma and Texas over to the SEC, which would increase its total from 19 appearances to 25 appearances. Is that fear that the SEC will dominate college football warranted?
“I wouldn’t say it’s a reaction to Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC, but I think to be totally candid you have to evaluate what is going on in the landscape of college athletics,” Warren said.
OK, let’s do that. The Big 12 does not seem to be part of this plan despite the fact the conference would have had more playoff berths than the Pac-12 or ACC since 2014 (with Oklahoma, of course).
“We want and need the Big 12 to do well,” Phillips said. “The Big 12 matters in college athletics. The Big 12 matters in Power 5 athletics and our FBS group.”
In other words, good luck. The Big 12’s diminished power gives the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 more say in perhaps trimming the number of playoff teams or at least the number of conference champions that receive automatic berths.
The SEC will have the best football conference with the addition of Oklahoma and Texas, but here is the problem for the alliance. The SEC dominated the BCS and has done well in the CFP. It will do well with eight, 12 or 16 teams, too. It’s the best conference in college football. There isn’t a playoff plan SEC commissioner Greg Sankey will turn down.
The bigger issue for these conferences is the “legitimate problem” that a handful of schools have dominated the CFP era. Alabama, LSU and Georgia have all played for the CFP championship. No other conference has put more than one team in the title game.
The faster that problem gets solved, the better all four conferences will be. Expansion benefits everyone, not just the SEC. Yes, there are academic concerns, changes to the bowl system and television to be worked out.
But after two more years of the same-old teams in the CFP, it’s going to be time for a change.
“Whenever a decision is made, we need to make sure we have an inclusive voice,” Warren said.
Those conferences already have it, and when it comes to expansion they need to use it for the good of everyone, not just the alliance.
The sooner, the better.
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