I have to admit that my first reaction to the conference realignment news was excitement about the possibility that college football might embrace my preferred playoff format: four 16-team, two-division conferences, with the conference championships played as the CFP quarterfinals.
There is so much good that would flow from that. No more selection committee (and no more stupid ESPN selection committee show). No more arguing over which team got screwed the most by the selection committee. No more Herbstreit Doctrine issues. The importance of conference play would be cemented in place. Best of all, from my selfish standpoint, it’s the format best suited to resist bracket creep.
I assume in all of this that the departures of Oklahoma and Texas would be the death knell for the Big 12. Were that to be the case, the big winner out of this would be the Pac-12, which would be able to pick and choose from the rubble left in the collapse in order to expand with P5 programs, and, more importantly, would assure itself of permanent relevance in the CFP (and, even more significantly, CFP money).
If the new Pac-12 commissioner is smart, he’s trying to figure out any way he can help grease the skids, of course, but, beyond that, he should be thinking now to propose a permanent arrangement of the CFP semi-finals that would have his conference face off against the Big Ten winner in the Rose Bowl while the ACC-SEC champs play in the Peach Bowl. Locking down the Rose Bowl’s future like that would bring some powerful support to a P4 structure, which again benefits the Pac-12 the most.
I’m down with all this. But.
But. There’s the money to consider. And, if you’re not the Pac-12, that gets tricky.
To start with, you have to figure that the Big 12 makes an effort to survive. I doubt it works, because there’s very little left in the wake of Oklahoma and Texas leaving that’s financially attractive on the football side to the networks. But let’s say it does. That blows up the above-mentioned P4 concept, for starters.
In my mind, though, that’s not the biggest obstacle to a 64-school college football power division. That belongs to the 12-team CFP proposal that, among others, Sankey has been championing. If the revenue from the postseason is distributed based on the number of schools a conference places in the tourney, adding Oklahoma and Texas to the mix increases the likelihood that the SEC will have more schools in the playoff mix every year. At minimum, three seems like a lock, four a strong possibility and five even possible at times.
You do the math. A P4, eight-team format guarantees a 25% share to the SEC. A 12-team CFP distribution matches that in weaker years and betters it in many others. And that could happen with or without four power conferences.
Additionally, a 12-team playoff format means Notre Dame doesn’t have to join a conference. It also leaves the mid-majors with a playoff spot in the CFP.
Like I said, it gets tricky. In the end, though, it’ll be about the money because it’s always about the money.