For some reason, some of the decision-makers are missing a key point in any future success to expand the CFB Playoff field. They seem to have forgotten that Greg Sankey and the SEC were content to maintain a four-team format.
Sankey went along with fellow commissioners Bob Bowlsby and Craig Thompson, plus Notre Dame Athletics Director, Jack Swarbrick to propose a 12-team format. Sankey made it clear he and the SEC were content with four teams, but were willing, with certain format details, to expand.
There is a reason that for over a year, the four men had to hide their meeting locations and times. It was almost as though treachery and deceit had to be avoided, lest the process be derailed.
They came up with a good plan and there was broad optimism it would later gain the needed votes. What was actually a three-year effort to build a better Playoff format came to an end recently with an 8-3 vote in favor of the change but failing to meet a standard of three of the Power Five conferences supporting it. Among the three no votes by the Big 10, Pac 12 and ACC, there was disappointment the vote results became known to the college football world.
That disappointment led to a scurrying effort to announce their support of Playoff expansion. What was not added, was the support was conditional, subject to agreement to their self-serving conditions.
Sun Belt Commissioner, Keith Gill provided a telling observation,
"Seems like everyone says they’re committed to expand the CFP, but it’s hard to believe that because we can’t expand the CFP."
There is a word to describe the situation. The word is impasse. The space between the locked-in opposing views is a chasm.
Remember ‘The Alliance’ from a few months ago? It was portrayed as many things by its members, the Big 10, ACC and Pac 12. It was really just one thing – an attempt by the three conferences to stop losing ground to the SEC.
Recent reports are the glitzy, proposed inter-conference scheduling agreements among Alliance members are off to a rocky start. Commissioners of the three leagues have a far bigger problem. That problem is Greg Sankey, who commented after the recent vote,
"From our perspective, we’ve given. We’re going to have to go and rethink our position based on how others have approached the conversation that, really, they initiated. And I don’t expect that to get any easier."
CFB Playoff Expansion Stalemate Will End
What will happen next? Negotiations with ESPN for a new television package will begin in October 2024. To negotiate with ESPN and possibly later with other media giants, a new format will have to be decided months before October 2024.
So basically there are two years to start over. Even more true than it was before Oklahoma and Texas decided to join the SEC, the SEC brand will dominate future negotiation discussions.
Those that want a 12, 8, or 6 team Playoff format need to understand Greg Sankey is not bluffing when he says the SEC is content with the four-team format.