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Pac-12 seeks automatic bid for all Power Five conference champions in proposed 12-team College Football Playoff

Oregon celebrates after winning the Pac-12 Conference championship against Southern California in 2020.
Oregon celebrates after winning the NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship against Southern California Friday, Dec 18, 2020, in Los Angeles. Oregon won 31-24. The Pac-12 is seeking for all Power Five conference champions to get an automatic bid in the proposed 12-team College Football Playoff expansion.
Ashley Landis, Associated Press

The Pac-12 would like assurances its conference champion would automatically qualify for the College Football Playoff in a 12-team expansion proposal the CFP is currently exploring.

In the proposed expansion from the current four-team playoff format, the six highest ranked conference champions would automatically qualify for the CFP field, with six at-large spots going to the highest remaining ranked teams.

On Friday, the College Football Playoff said the proposal took a step forward after being presented by a subcommittee to the CFP management committee — the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick — and will now be reviewed by the CFP board of managers (chancellors and presidents) next week, June 22 in Dallas.

“This is a very exciting time for college football,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. “The working group’s proposal includes many details that must be carefully reviewed and discussed. We look forward to that review.”

The Pac-12, one of the five power conferences at college football’s highest level, responded to Friday’s news by sharing its support of expanding the playoffs while simultaneously releasing a statement, offering an idea that would change how the automatic bids are divvied for conference champions.

In the current CFP expansion proposal, the six highest ranked conference champions would qualify, no matter if it’s from a Power Five league — the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 — or Group of Five conference — the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt.

With the current stipulations, that means a Power Five (also known as Autonomous Five) champion could be left out of the playoff.

“The Pac-12 supports expansion of the CFP and believes that the Autonomous Five champions should annually qualify for the CFP,” a statement from outgoing Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said. “We greatly appreciate the work of the CFP subcommittee, as well as the thoughtful and productive discussions amongst the management committee this week in Chicago. We now look forward to reviewing the expansion proposal more thoroughly with our members, student-athletes, partners, and other key stakeholders.”

Pac-12 teams have been selected for the CFP just twice in its seven-year history — Oregon in 2014, and Washington in 2016. That’s the lowest representation among Power Five conferences.

If the proposed 12-team format were in effect in 2020, last year’s Pac-12 champion, Oregon, would not have qualified for the College Football Playoff. Instead, the Ducks, who ranked No. 25 in the final CFP rankings, would have been passed over by No. 8 Cincinnati (of the AAC) and No. 12 Coastal Carolina (of the Sun Belt).

Both Scott and incoming conference commissioner George Kliavkoff met with fellow members of the CFP management committee this week. When Kliavkoff was introduced as Scott’s successor last month, he said, “I want to go on the record: The Pac-12 is in favor of expansion of the College Football Playoff.”

ESPN reported that if the board of managers is in favor of the 12-team proposal, the commissioners will then continue to work through the details before reporting back during a scheduled September meeting, though any changes to the playoff wouldn’t take effect until 2023 at the earliest.

“There are so many constituents,” Kliavkoff told ESPN. “We’re going to spend the next couple of months going back to our constituents, getting them all on board with the same format. There’s also timing issues, related to all of the contracts.”