January 11, 2022 8:00 a.m.
Trying to get a dozen people to agree on something that impacts all in so many ways is impossible. When the college football playoff group decided it would take a unanimous vote to change the current structure of four teams we should have all known this is where we would be.
After a summer PR blunder in which the idea of a 12-team playoff was leaked after four commissioners secretly had been working on formats we find ourselves now with no progress on an expanded field, how the money is distributed, where and when we play the game and who gets automatic bids.
Some commissioners want 12 teams, some are content with eight and SEC chief Greg Sankey is fine if we stay with four. Why not? He gets two in every season.
The Pac 12 commissioner says they want to preserve the Rose Bowl in an expanded playoff and would prefer a Big Ten vs Pac 12 matchup. What?
The Alliance(Pac 12, Big Ten and ACC) are still mad at Greg Sankey for taking Oklahoma and Texas so they are not exactly willing to dance with the southern cartel.
The Group of 5 leagues are trying to flex muscles they really don't have but want to wield whatever they think they have and here we are. As of today, we are no closer to a 12-team playoff. In fact, most think we are likely headed to finishing the current four-team model through the end of the 2025 season.
With billions at stake you would think all parties would figure out the issues and get this done for the good of the game, but everyone wants to get the biggest piece of the pie they can and show their members and fans how powerful they are.
So what does it all mean for teams in our state?
For UCF, their new commissioner Bob Bowlsby appears ticked off. The Big XII boss reportedly stormed out of a recent meeting angry over the inability of the group making progress. He didn't hold back words in talking with the media about his disappointment over the matter. But for UCF, you want Bowlsby to keep fighting. So far, there appears to be no push by any of the other P5 leagues to not include the new Big XII in discussions of Power 5 conferences. That is good. There has always been concern that the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac 12 might want to try and claim a Big XII without Oklahoma and Texas does not belong. For now, that does not appear to be the case. The Big XII and Bowlsby are fighting as a power league to keep and get the most money for its members. That is important because a new media deal with the Big XII will be worth a lot of money for UCF but likely less than what current members have been making because of the Sooners and Longhorns. But an expanded playoff model is a huge financial windfall for a school like UCF that has basically made little coin in the current playoff financial model.
For FSU and Miami, the ACC has their own agenda in all this. New commissioner, Jim Phillips, has been somewhat quiet compared to Bowlsby but he knows it's always about money. The ACC signed a bad media deal with ESPN(before Phillips was hired) that leaves it way behind the projected new media deal for the SEC and what the Big Ten will get. There is nothing Phillips can do about. Disney/ESPN has no reason to change the current media deal. Phillips wants as much money as he can make from an expanded playoff. The path to getting teams into an expanded field won't change. Despite Missouri making likely $80-90M in media money in a few years, many in the SEC will still go 4-8 in a 16-team league and an 11-1 FSU or Miami making $35-40m a year will still make the playoffs over a 4-8 team.
As for Florida and the SEC, Greg Sankey is laughing at all. The conference continues to win national titles and is basically getting two teams in a four team field every year. He is in no rush to change the format but don't think for one second he is not about to flex his power. Sankey knows he will have to get aboard an expanded idea but he will want to be financially rewarded for it. That brings us to how new playoff money will be distributed. In a 16-team SEC, Sankey knows he is likely looking at four teams making a 12-team tournament every year. If that's the case, why would he be in favor of equal distribution of dollars with leagues that struggle to get one team in....Pac 12?
As for the Group of 5 conferences fighting for any format that protects their leagues, be careful. The AAC's Mike Aresco is demanding at least one spot for a G5 champion in an expanded playoff and he and others in his group prefer a model that takes the top six rated conference champions not necessarily the P5 champs and one G5. That is what Aresco and his fellow G5 leaders need to fight for. But if the current playoff contract is allowed to run its course, a new playoff may look vastly different. In fact, a new playoff contract in five seasons may not include any G5 team. All bets are off the table once this current deal ends. Maybe the P5 leagues decide to change the rules again. They have the brands, the media partnerships with real value and the votes. What if the P5 leagues say "you know what, we are done with you and here is our offer for little money and our rules and if you don't like it then we will just leave you out"...Don't laugh, that can easily happen and the projected "breakaway" could then actually happen.
So we are back to what we always knew. The SEC took the teams they always wanted. That upset the others. Now, no one can agree on anything and everyone is digging in to protect their own interests. Will it all get resolved? Six months ago I thought that answer was yes. Today? I truly don't know and think this is not a slam dunk and a power showdown is where we are headed and I have no idea how it will end. But I do know the SEC will look great and have lots of money in their pockets...
Final thought: Did you know that the mom of Michael Nesmith, from the musical group The Monkees, invented what we now know as liquid paper back in 1956. She offered "Mistake Out" to IBM. They turned her down to only create their own version and later sold that for $47M to Gillette.