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Big Ten, SEC uncertain on commitment to College Football Playoff, future format

Chandler Vesselsby:Chandler Vessels02/04/24


SEC and Big Ten commissioners Greg Sankey and Tony Petitti have concerns about the future of the College Football Playoff. With the CFP management committee set to meet in Dallas on Monday, both Sankey and Petitti opened up on talks about a potential change in format to the expanded 12-team Playoff.

The College Football Playoff television deal with ESPN is set to expire in 2025, meaning the 10 FBS conferences and Notre Dame will no longer be contractually bound together. Discussions on a new contract ahead of the national championship led to no results, casting doubt on the future of the CFP beyond 2025.

In a report from Ross Dellenger of Yahoo! Sports, Sankey confirmed he is still committed to the Playoff, but added that there is “a lot to get right” to make that happen.

“We have the reality of meeting to deal with CFP governance with the 2026 season and beyond,” Sankey said. “That’s a highly important issue.”

Petitti doesn’t have quite as much experience as Sankey in these College Football Playoff meetings, as he took over as Big Ten commissioner only last spring. However, he too, stressed the importance of these meetings as the conferences attempt to work together to come to an agreement.

“I’m new to (CFP) meetings,” Petitti said. “How these things develop, there have been some surprises. The focus on what this is going to look like beyond 2026 is highly important and deserves a lot of time and discussion.”

Conference realignment has been at the center of discussions about the future format of the CFP. Currently, it is a 6+6 model with automatic bids given to six conference champions and then an additional six at-large bids. However, with the Pac-12 losing 10 teams in 2024, it was proposed to move to a 5+7 model.

Washington State president Kirk Schulz, whose vote in a format change is necessary for the change to take place in 2024 and 2025, is delaying the approval. Schulz is reportedly proposing that the Pac-12 receive a guarantee of both voting rights and revenue distribution before giving his vote. He has been met with pushback from the other conferences.

The CFP currently divides about $460 million annually into subdivisions. The Power 5 schools receive 80% of that for an average of around $5-6 million per school.

Teams will also receive bonuses for making the College Football Playoff under the 12-team format. The teams who qualify will receive $4 million, another $4 million if they advance to the quarterfinals and $6 million for each round if they make it to the semifinals and national title game.

Most expect that the Big Ten and SEC will ask for a bigger revenue distribution and more weight in voting matter. The recent changes in conference realignment have made it so that the majority of college football’s biggest programs are now in both of those leagues.

Starting in 2026, format and revenue matters do not need unanimous consent among the 11 commissioners and their corresponding 11 presidents. That in mind, it will be interesting to keep an eye on what takes place in Dallas.

“We don’t know as a group what the CFP structure looks like from 2026 and beyond,” Sankey said. “That’s on our mind.”