Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde discuss SEC commissioner Greg Sankey’s comments on the future of the College Football Playoff, and debate how the leagues who vetoed the 12-team proposal in January will feel about the future plans.
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DAN WETZEL: Commissioner Greg Sankey gave a state of the SEC speech, of course. He did discuss the playoff. He said that 12-team, six automatic bid deal that he described as a really good balancing outcome, nice compromise, he threw out there. He said, once it got rejected in January by the alliance, the Big Ten, ACC, Pac 12, if we are going to go back to square one, then we are going to take a step back from the model that was introduced and rethink the approach.
And he mentioned this. We'll consider the number of teams, whether there should be any guarantee for conference champions at all. Just earn your way in. There is something healthy competitively about that, and increases expectations and support around programs. So those two items, the number of teams, he's not set on 12. Guaranteed auto-bids, not set on that.
The reason this playoff proposal went from four to 12 and skipped eight is because the compromise was, let's give five or six automatic bids out there. And if you do five or six automatic bids on eight, you're down to just two at-large teams. Right now, there are four at-large bids. You go to two, it hurts the strongest conferences, and it hurts Notre Dame.
Sankey's got the strongest conference. And he would very much like to help Notre Dame stay away from the Big Ten. He could go to eight and have eight at-large bids and no automatic bids. That would help Notre Dame. It would also potentially choke out these other leagues without ever having to rate them because the chances of the Big 12 and Pac 12 specifically getting teams in a playoff without an automatic bid starts falling to not great.
And when you're not in the playoff year after year, you lose relevancy. You lose the perception of competitiveness with recruits. You lose money. You lose television ratings. You lose everything. This playoff can be used as a way to decrease the value of other conferences while also increasing the SEC and the Big Ten.
So I thought there was an awful lot there in those three, four sentences. What do you think, Pat?
PAT FORDE: Yeah, no. That was-- one thing that seems clear with Sankey, while he may come across as a bit dry and wonky at times, I think he's a pretty tough guy when it comes to these sort of situations. If he feels like you dealt with him badly or whatever, he ain't forgetting it. And he will exert the influence that he has. And I think this is one of those indications.
OK, fine. This is what you wanted? We're going to give it to you. And it's going to be to our benefit. And I really don't care what it means for you guys.
DAN WETZEL: In any given year, especially with the addition of USC and the additional money, you could easily have three, possibly four SEC teams and certainly two or maybe three Big Ten teams in the top eight.
PAT FORDE: Yep.
DAN WETZEL: Especially if they design the playoff to favor strength of schedule.
PAT FORDE: Yes.
DAN WETZEL: And they start beating that drum, strength of schedule, strength of schedule, strength of schedule. And you're sitting in the Big 12, and you're sitting-- what's the strength of schedule? It's a perception.
PAT FORDE: Right.
DAN WETZEL: The Pac 12 hasn't had a team in in five years. It's one of the reasons SC just bailed. Because the thing about Sankey, he's very, very, very smart. And he's very purposeful. They're still mad that the plan they worked on in January got blown up. I mean, he's got to sit there and go, Pac 12, you haven't got in in five years. I offer you a plan where you'll get in every year. And you said no.
PAT FORDE: Yeah.
DAN WETZEL: OK, now, wait, what? What do you want me to do now? Who are you? And you just lost your marquee program. And I'm supposed to care?
PAT FORDE: Yeah.
DAN WETZEL: I'm supposed to give you a guaranteed spot now when you're weaker? They said, let's have a playoff that stretches coast to coast. And the coast to coast people said, no, thank you.
Will there be everybody holding hands? And will there be a bit of saying, we need to do what's good for the game? I hope so. But we're down, at this point, to hoping that that's the case. The Big Ten and SEC do not act in the best interest of their own programs and in the most profitable manner for their own programs for the good of the game. And if that is what history tells us is what's going to happen, it doesn't happen that way.