Greg Sankey calls for CFP format to be reconsidered after realignment: ‘Circumstances have changed’

Greg Sankey called for the 12-team College Football Playoff format, debuting next season, to be reconsidered after the recent wave of conference realignment, the SEC commissioner said Tuesday in his first time speaking publicly since the Pac-12’s near dissolution. Here’s what you need to know:

  • On the expanded playoff, Sankey said: “Even here in the SEC, we wanted to see college football be strong nationally. And we have not seen a west-of-the-Rockies participant in the Playoff since, I believe, 2016. So the expansion was about making sure we brought in western football. Well, now what’s happened is western football has come into other conferences. The net of that is circumstances have changed, and I think it’s wise for us to take a step back and reconsider what the format might look like given these changing circumstances.”
  • The presidents who oversee the CFP approved the 12-team bracket and its format last year, but many administrators are approaching the 2024 and 2025 seasons as something of a trial run.
  • The CFP essentially gets to start from scratch again, contractually, with the 2026 season. The 12-team model is what was chosen for the future, but the specifics of how it is set up could change between now and 2026.

What else Sankey said

On changing the CFP format, Sankey said he has not “had any meaningful conversations, but I think we have to acknowledge it’s on everyone’s mind, depending on the outcome of these additional membership movement pieces.”

Sankey reiterated that a 12-team format “still seems wise,” but that some of the “elements and specifics” should be looked at.

When the 12-team format was decided upon, there were 10 conferences, including the Power 5. With the Pac-12 hanging on by a thread, Sankey honed in on the open question of how many conferences will exist when the CFP expands next season.

“It remains to be seen, but how many FBS conferences will exist in 30 or 60 days? … We’ve been engaged in the right kind of conversations around future media opportunities, around the logistical issues and decisions related to the first round of games on campus, and how do we move then into bowl games?” Sankey said. “But we do have changed circumstances. Right now we still have 10 FBS conferences. But there’s obviously a great question as to whether that (will) remain. And yeah, that could create the thought in my mind and I think in others about some level of adjustment being made.”

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

Reading between the lines

Sankey wants more at-large spots in the 12-team bracket now that the Pac-12 is on life support. With 10 fully operational FBS leagues, the commissioners decided on the 6-6 format. That would mean, in typical years, five spots for the Power 5 champions and one automatic spot for the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion. Then, there are six at-large spots (which, if history serves as a guide, means a lot of SEC and Big Ten teams). With one fewer “power” conference, it makes sense that Sankey would push for at least one extra at-large team over a second Group of 5 champion. It helps the SEC.

Sankey also floated the idea that at-large teams should be considered for top-four seeds. Right now, they’re not, which means that Notre Dame and other non-conference champions can’t receive first-round byes.

It’s clear that Sankey is setting the stage for a scenario in which, say, Georgia is No. 1 in the CFP rankings, followed by Alabama at No. 2. Under the agreed-upon rules, Georgia would be the No. 1 seed, but Alabama would be No. 5, without a bye. Again, this change would help the SEC. — Auerbach

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(Photo: Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

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