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How College Football Playoff expansion could impact Pac-12 scheduling

The College Football Playoff board of managers gave its approval for the organization to continue exploring a proposal that would expand the playoff to 12 teams.
FILE — In this Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, file photo, the trophy is displayed before a news conference for the NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, in New Orleans. On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff board of managers gave its approval for the organization to continue exploring a proposal that would expand the playoff to 12 teams.
David J. Phillip, Associated Press

On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff board of managers gave its approval for the organization to continue exploring a proposal that would expand the playoff to 12 teams.

The move was expected after the CFP’s management committee (the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick) approved a four-man working group’s proposal last week to expand the playoff from its current four-team makeup to 12, moving it on to the board of managers, comprised of 11 chancellors and presidents from select schools.

“Having heard the presentation made today by the working group, along with the management committee that joined us for today’s meeting, the board has authorized the management committee to begin a summer review phase that will engage other important voices in this matter,” Mississippi State president Mark Keenum, chairman of the CFP board of managers, said in a statement. “These include many people on our campuses, such as student-athletes, athletics directors, faculty athletics representatives, coaches, and university presidents and chancellors. Their opinions are important, and we want to hear them.”

What’s next?

College Football Playoff committee leaders are scheduled to meet again in September, so for now, the management committee will review the feasibility of expanding the CFP to a 12-team format.

In the 12-team proposal, six spots would go to the six highest ranked conference champions, regardless of conference, while the remaining six would go to the next highest ranked teams in the CFP final rankings.

How could CFP expansion impact the Pac-12?

The impact of an expanded College Football Playoff field, which is widely seen as being inevitable, is already being felt. The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner reported Monday that Pac-12 leaders, including school athletic directors and incoming commissioner George Kliavkoff, have initiated preliminary discussions about major changes for the league from a football perspective, including the elimination of divisions and reducing the number of conference games from nine to eight.

Wilner noted that while changes could be years away, another factor in these discussions in the Pac-12’s upcoming media rights negotiations.

“When you’re talking about CFP expansion, it makes sense to continue to discuss the conference schedule,’’ said Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes, per The Mercury News. “More than ever, football strategy is important. And as it relates to the schedule, it’s really important.”

The Pac-12 seeks a different model for automatic bids

The Pac-12, one of the Power Five conferences which also includes the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC, came out with its own suggestion for amending the current proposal. Following last week’s meetings, the Pac-12 released a statement asking the committee to consider giving an automatic bid to the conference champions of each Power Five (or Autonomous Five) conference.

“The Pac-12 supports expansion of the CFP and believes that the Autonomous Five champions should annually qualify for the CFP,” outgoing Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a league statement.

That was met with disagreement from one of the conference commissioners from the Group of Five, which includes the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt.

“I didn’t sense any other traction for it,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco told ESPN. “That would be an enormous step in the wrong direction from the working group’s proposal as far as I’m concerned. The top six conferences, without favor, is merit-based. It’s fair. It doesn’t reward privilege for privilege’s sake.”

In the seven-year history of the CFP, two Pac-12 teams — Oregon in 2014, and Washington in 2016 — have qualified for the playoff.

The proposal to include six conference champions, no matter if they are from the Power Five or Group of Five leagues, is seen as a major win for Group of Five conferences. So far, a Group of Five team has never made it to the playoff. In this proposal, two teams from Group of Five conferences — No. 8 Cincinnati (of the AAC) and No. 12 Coastal Carolina (of the Sun Belt) — would have advanced to the playoff over Pac-12 champion Oregon (No. 25) if the 12-team model was in effect last season.