No automatic bids for College Football Playoff?  Greg Sankey sends a message that should scare anyone who is not in the SEC, Big Ten

No automatic bids for College Football Playoff? Greg Sankey sends a message that should scare anyone who is not in the SEC, Big Ten

Back in January, the day when two of his schools (Georgia and Alabama) were to compete for the national championship again, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey made a final pitch for the establishment of a new College Football Playoff.

It contained 12 layers. The field will consist of six guaranteed bids for the six best conference champions, plus six more selected by a committee. The four best champions would receive a farewell in the first round. The opening round matches would be played on campus of the higher seeded team, the rest would take place in neutral places, mostly established ball games.

With the current four-tier CFP model set to expire after the 2026 season, this was a fair, exciting, equitable and very profitable alternative for the future.

It was estimated to be worth not only $ 1 billion in future media rights, but would also secure the TV value and competitive relevance of each major conference and even help smaller leagues. It would also make big conference title fights enormously valuable de facto playoff games.

This was a lifesaver for specific leagues, and the sport as a whole.

Nevertheless, the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 formed a so-called “Alliance” to block it, and insulted and insulted Sankey and the others who worked on the plan (Bob Bowlsby of Big 12, Craig Thompson of Mountain West, and Jack Swarbrick of Notre Dame). ).

Six months later, the Big Ten blew up by raiding Pac-12 for USC and UCLA.

At this point, the ACC and Pac-12 would crawl over smoldering coal to get Sankey’s 12-team model back on the table.

As the two leagues try to find ways to get more out of upcoming media rights negotiations and emerge as equals with the SEC and Big Ten, they can only kick themselves for not taking the golden goose that was offered. Because that deal, or a deal that is just as good for them, may never come back.

Sankey said Monday that the SEC is not in a hurry to add more teams and destabilize other conferences. However, he made it clear that when it came to the future of the playoffs, what was once on the table is now forgotten. It’s a whole new world.

“If we are going to go back to the starting point, we are going to take a step back from the model that was introduced and reconsider the approach,” he said.

The old plan was a compromise. It created a bigger, richer final game by ensuring access to conference champions without reducing the number of large teams.

Southeast Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey speaks during SEC Media Days, Monday, July 18, 2022, in Atlanta.  (AP Photo / John Bazemore)

Southeast Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey speaks during SEC Media Days on Monday in Atlanta. (AP Photo / John Bazemore)

Under the current four-team model, all four teams are large selections. Going to eight, but giving automatic bids to five or six conference champions, meant fewer seats. So 12, with six guaranteed bids and six in total, the road went on.

“[It] was a very good balancing result, said Sankey.

Nevertheless, it was rejected, at least in part because the ACC and Pac-12 made the terrible miscalculation that they could rely on the Big Ten and that guaranteed bids would always be available in future plans.

Now, with the SEC and Big Ten clearly established as the two big dogs going forward, the competitive balance between the conferences is no longer there.

“Things have changed,” Sankey said.

This should scare anyone who is not in the SEC or the Big Ten. A new playoffs are coming, but each league’s chances of succeeding – or profiting from media rights that an automatic bid would have given – are in dangerous shape.

The SEC and Big Ten do not need to extend their membership to exclude the other leagues. A bigger playoff, and the credibility of putting more teams in it year after year (plus the revenue that comes with it), can slowly do it for them.

The SEC and Big Ten could now propose a model with eight teams, all with a large bid, which could easily be stacked annually with five, six or even seven schools from these two conferences. For example, if the criteria for general assessment are focused on the strength of the schedule, other leagues with fewer power programs will fight up a steep hill just to qualify.

Especially the Pac-12 should have seen it coming. It has not received a large selection in five seasons under the current system. Despite this, it voted against having at least one school each year.

“[We’ll consider the] number of teams, “said Sankey.”[And] whether there should be any guarantee for conference champions at all. Just make money. ”

No automatic bidding? Just earn you?

“There’s something competitively healthy about it and increases expectations and support around programs,” Sankey said.

When it comes to creating the most competitive endgame possible, he does not necessarily make mistakes, although it is not ideal to leave everything to the policies and opinions of a committee.

However, it will be at the expense of the long-term viability of the non-SEC / Big Ten leagues, not to mention the sport as a whole. The imbalance in recruitment and revenue would only increase.

Back in January, a single league (or Notre Dame) could veto the new playoff schedule. Any change to the four-team model during the current 12-year commitment must be unanimous. However, this agreement will be terminated in 2026. There is no roll-over.

A new playoffs must be created, and for that, the SEC and Big Ten, due to their national competitiveness, will drive the discussion. Everyone else must follow. There are no more equal partners.

On Monday, Greg Sankey wondered aloud if there was a need for guaranteed access.

If the ACC and Pac-12 did not listen to him in January when he offered them a lifeline they foolishly threw back, they should listen now because the alarm bells are ringing.

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