Hey, remember my simple question?
Well, Greg Sankey’s having none of that.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey told ESPN on Thursday that the expected move of Big 12 co-founders Oklahoma and Texas to his league shouldn’t impact the consideration of a 12-team College Football Playoff. Sankey also expects to continue working with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby on the CFP’s management committee in spite of what has become an obviously fractured relationship.
Bowlsby and Sankey were two of the four members of the CFP subcommittee who spent the past two years working closely together on developing the proposal for a 12-team format, along with Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.
“Let’s look back at history at the ability of people to work together through challenging circumstances,” Sankey said. “In 2010 there was movement, 2011 dating back to movement around the Big East and the ACC. There were moments, but we all have a responsibility. I do think there’s a level of respect that’s present and will remain going forward. There are tough times, but those who have been in leadership positions have always been able to work through those elements of our relationships and our work.”
The rest of the college football world can be summarized for now as “fuck your no hard feelings, Greg.”
One high-ranking official involved in the process told ESPN he expects a “serious mixed range of views” when the 22 commissioners and presidents convene in September.
“It’s probably going to be a slightly tense meeting because of a little bit of a lack of trust,” the source said. “It’s an environment right now where I think it’s fair to say not everybody trusts everybody else because there are a lot of moving parts.”
The problem for them, of course, as Sankey knows damned well, is that there’s so much money with a 12-team playoff.
Sankey continued to reiterate that the SEC wasn’t leading the charge on playoff expansion, and he has said repeatedly he is happy with a four-team field.
“That decision hasn’t changed,” he said. “Twelve was built around a set of principles and realities that I think have been present and will remain present in college football. Others may feel differently, so they have a format in which they can react. That was the charge of the working group. I’ll be curious to hear their feedback.”
“It just feels uneasy relative to the 12 [teams],” Kliavkoff told CBS Sports. “I’m assuming my colleagues, nationally, this is a reason to pause on the 12. We need to pause.”
Yeah. The question for George is how long. The Pac-12 may tut tut for a little while, but it needs a 12-team format with a guaranteed slot for a conference champ badly. And, again, Sankey knows that.
“The Pac-12 doesn’t get in the playoff very often in the current format,” Sankey told CBS Spots. “I think we all felt a responsibility to look at different models to provide access.
“If somebody wants to suggest this was motivated by some self interest, they’re missing a big picture. Why would I support any automatic conference access? Why would I have said pretty openly we shouldn’t leave the West Coast part of the country out of the playoff?”
There will be a playoff fight between the conferences about the CFP. But it won’t be about the format. It’s going to be about — what else? — distribution of revenue.
In devastating the Big 12 to the point it has lost 50% to 75% of its value, the SEC enhanced its power, leverage and earning potential to the point some college leaders fear the conference could earn six of the 12 available playoff spots in the proposed expansion.
“With 12 teams, we could just be watching a lot of SEC teams in the 12-team playoff,” a highly-placed Power Five source told CBS Sports.
One Power Five AD added: “Why on God’s green Earth would the Pac-12 and Big Ten hand over these [playoff] rights, which only strengthens the SEC?”
A second Power Five AD agreed: “I don’t care if there are 10 SEC teams in; we just can’t make that a bonanza [every] year for them. You can’t strangle everybody else financially.”
Easier said than done, Bubba.
An easy fix for the CFP would be limiting the number teams from one conference that could enter a 12-team field. The problem? None of the stakeholders want that. As dominant as the SEC could become, other power conferences do not want to give up the possibility of unlimited berths for their leagues.
Sankey’s already showing one of his hole cards.
As proposed, an expanded playoff would include the top six ranked conference champions with no automatic bids. The top four ranked teams would receive first-round byes.
However, Sankey has raised the idea of accepting the 12 best teams, regardless of conference titles.
“Should we just say the 12 best teams?” Sankey proposed. “I’ve been asked that by our own membership.”
They’re just asking, y’all.