On Wednesday, college football’s powerhouses will meet again to work out remaining unresolved issues in the 12-team college football playoff before the expanded format arrives next season. The meeting was scheduled for weeks ago, but the intrigue surrounding it increased tenfold this month after the latest wave of conference realignment left the Pac-12 on life support.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey has been vocal in recent weeks about his desire for CFP leadership to reconsider the previously agreed-upon 12-team model. He told ESPN he still thinks 12 is the correct number of entrants but wants to reconsider the way those bids are awarded. Sankey is one of 10 FBS commissioners who, along with Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, make up the CFP Management Committee.
Sankey was also part of the subgroup that established a 12-team model approved last fall, consisting of the six highest-ranked conference champions and the six highest-ranked overall teams. The “6+6” model, as officials informally referred to it, has been hailed as almost guaranteeing annual access to all five Power 5 champions and at least one Group of 5 champion, while also ensuring that the best teams in the country get a chance to play in the National Championship. .
Does 6+6 still make sense with only four Super Bowl conferences and nine FBS leagues? With the Pac-12 out of the picture, should there be five top-ranked conference champions and seven at-large bids — or should the changes be more drastic? How will the revenue be divided?
Commissioners may not have definitive answers to these questions by the end of the day Wednesday, but they expect to dig deeper into the topics. They must also sort out other logistical issues, from lodging to allocating tickets and everything in between. Despite all the stalking of conference members that has taken place over the past three years, those in the room expect this week’s meeting to be cordial. There is too much at stake for this not to be the case.
“I don’t want it to sound like Pollyana, but it’s not a steel cage match in Texas either,” said one of the commissioners. the athlete On condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic openly. “We have to keep plodding along the way we’ve been.”
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkov will be in attendance on Wednesday, though the future of his conference is in flux. Right now, the league has just four members for 2024, though that number could be cut in half by the end of the week if Stanford and Cal are formally invited to the ACC. It’s hard to imagine Kliavkoff will play a significant role in talks about the future of the 12-team CFP, which is set to begin a season in which the Pac-12 may not be present in any way. But it could be included in discussions regarding the 2023-24 season, in which the league would be an active participant.
Feelings about reconsidering the expanded CFP format are somewhat mixed, including particular opposition to the idea, floated by Sankey and others at the SEC, of simply taking the 12 highest-ranked teams rather than assigning places to conference champions.
“If someone wants to go down this path, if we only have nine conferences, instead of 10, we should reconsider the number of automatic bids and the number of conference champions we take — I’m open to that,” another commissioner said. He said. “I can see (five conference champions and seven public bids) that it’s a reasonable conversation and certainly one that’s in line with the principles we’ve come up with.
“Anything beyond that is in no way consistent with our conversations over the past few years.”
The commissioners know that the so-called “Best 12” model is likely to favor the SEC and the Big Ten, especially with their upcoming expansion. But any changes for the 2024 and 2025 seasons will require a unanimous vote, and there are at least seven other conference commissioners involved in these decisions, in addition to Swarbrick.
Yet the SEC and the Big Ten will soon represent 34 schools, more than half the strength of 5. Their influence continues to grow, and the relationship between the conferences is beginning to warm, especially among the commissioners. Can Sankey and Tony Pettitti start throwing their weight?
“I don’t think either of them would handle it that way,” said one of the commissioners. “They will certainly deal with it, but they know we need consensus (in 2024 and 2025).”
However, the pressure to find additional places for the top teams will only increase in the coming years. This time next year, the Big Ten will have 18 teams, and the SEC will have 16. The ACC can have 17 full-time members (if you add Cal, Stanford, and SMU), and the Big 12 will have 16. If only their heroes make it to CFP, it could mean a lot of shows and unhappy fanbases.
“We’ll add Oklahoma and Texas, and we won’t have fewer teams participating in the postseason with the addition of those two historic programs to the current 14 teams,” Sankey told ESPN last week. “We can stay in four teams and we can stay in the best four teams, and that’s just a direct representation of where we stand.
“But the idea of the 12 creates balance. I think it’s all indicative of wanting to support the game more broadly than just the interests of one conference. If it were just the interests of one conference, I’d be adamant about staying at four as long as we wanted and then let’s go negotiate the year.” 13 (2026) and beyond instead of trying to continue to develop the game and bring people into the world. The International Championship.”
The second commissioner he spoke to the athlete I wondered why Sankey had pressed for a reconsideration of the formula he had already agreed to. The commissioner noted that this round of reorganization was mostly a reallocation of teams from one power conference to another. The composition of the so-called Power 5 is basically unchanged, save for the additions of UCF, Houston, BYU, and Cincinnati and the expected introduction of Oregon State and Washington State. The total value of teams grouped into five “powerful” leagues should in theory be the same as that of the same schools grouped into four.
The commissioners need to figure out how to split the revenue for the first two years of the 12-team CFP, and then they’ll basically start from scratch on the revenue distribution formula for the new CFP contract starting in 2026. It’s a safe assumption that for 2024 and 2025, it will adjust The formula is such that power federation payments to each school look the same regardless of the number of members in each conference.
“It is very easy to overreact,” said the second commissioner. “The thing we’re arguing about has nothing to do with the quality of the team on the field. We’re not talking about competition, we’re talking about the value perceived by some suit in New York or Los Angeles.
One of the questions that could be asked in the 2024 and 2025 revenue breakdown discussions: Should the new Power 5 schools for 2024 perform as well as the other 65? It’s possible that one or more of the commissioners could make the argument that newer Big 12 members BYU, Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF didn’t pay up for the initial deal CFP made with ESPN a decade ago because they were in the Five at the time, and so shouldn’t. They have to take advantage now.
This is just one of many potential topics that have seen a change in tone after the latest round of reorganization.
“Circumstances have changed,” said Bill Hancock, CFP’s executive director. “I suspect that the management committee will spend some time discussing the effects of those circumstances. It would not be appropriate for me to go into what those effects are. We will have to wait and see.”
Tickets, home websites and TV shows
The group should also come close to working out details about the logistics of the first-round sites and the television agreement for the first two rounds, tasks that were the original focus of the meeting.
“We’ve had an agenda for this meeting for several weeks, and we’re committed to that agenda,” Hancock said.
For first-round spots, tickets will be sold by the home team, and season ticket holders are expected to have the opportunity to purchase them. But the allocation of the visiting team’s tickets and where they will be seated has yet to be finalized. Different schools and conferences have different policies and locations for visiting cheerleaders.
Hotels will have to be booked in advance, especially in college towns where hotels are hard to find on weekends during games. The group still questions whether schools should book hotels before the season and cancel them if they are not needed, whether the CFP itself should book them, or whether there is another solution.
“We’re getting close,” Hancock said of the home site’s logistics. “We will be ready. I think it will take a few more (meetings).”
Meanwhile, the broadcast TV deal must take into account the change in its inventory. The 12-team playoff will increase the CFP package by four, from six New Year’s and national championship games to 11 playoff games. ESPN, which holds exclusive rights to the CFP, has the first discussions about additional games before CFP rights fully return to the market for 2026 and beyond. Fox said it was interested in bidding on the games.
“If it’s shared, I personally feel it can’t or probably shouldn’t be shared by more than two people,” said Berk Magnus, ESPN’s chief content officer. the athleteRichard Deitch earlier this month. “I don’t know how you can split 11 games between more than two entities and have everyone invest equally in it. Remember, unlike NFL packages, it’s not tied to anything in the regular season. It’s literally just 11 games. So I think for maximum value, the more you split it up , the more likely the lower the price and the value. But it sure can be two.”
The current CFP contract value is approximately $470 million annually. Some estimates say the full package could bring in more than $2 billion, but the market is also in an uncertain situation — the Pac-12 collapsed because it couldn’t secure a satisfactory deal for media rights, and ESPN has to pay more than it originally did. Big 12 expansion is planned and possibly ACC expansion as well. The NBA and WWE are also in rights negotiations with many of the same broadcast partners. And all of this comes at a time when ESPN is making cuts and looking for a strategic partner to invest.
With the expanded CFP only a year away, rights to the 2024 and 2025 postseason games should be decided fairly soon.
“We’re working on it and I’m sure we’ll get it done in a long time,” Hancock said.
And while that may be true, the to-do list has gotten longer in recent weeks. Wednesday will be the commissioners’ first chance to verify anything.
(Photo: Brandon Slaughter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)