Story by Jon Wilner
The Hotline took a quick break from our wall-to-wall coverage of a wild Pac-12 football season — anybody been fired or suspended in the past 30 minutes? — to scan the national landscape for developments.
And guess what: There’s relevant news at 40,000 feet, courtesy of … the alliance.
The commissioners of the Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC have proposed an alternate format for College Football Playoff expansion, per a report from Sports Illustrated: Grow the event to 12 teams and reserve automatic berths for each Power Five champion, with a spot secure for the top-ranked Group of Five team.
The format would ensure the Pac-12 champion has a place at the table, whether it’s carrying one loss or four losses.
How does this differ from the 12-team proposal put forth in June? The original featured reserved spots for the six highest-ranked FBS conference champions. Since there are 10 leagues, the Pac-12 could have been squeezed out. (Not likely, but possible.)
The tweaked model would be ideal for the Pac-12, in part because of what it might mean for the regular season:
Teams could set whatever non-conference schedules they wanted because the loss total outside of league play wouldn’t matter. (Win the conference, and you’re in.)
Yes, the loss count could impact seeding; it might not be smart to schedule Alabama and Ohio State in the same season.
But the automatic berth for the conference champion would create a level of flexibility that behooves the collective and gives commissioner George Kliavkoff more inventory options when he negotiates the Pac-12’s next media rights deal.
Add potential changes to the Pac-12 football structure (divisions or no divisions; eight conference games or nine) …
And the Big Ten’s plan for media rights and non-conference games …
And likely changes to the NCAA governance model (more autonomy for FCS schools) …
And possible realignment in advance of the next media deals …
Add it all up, and Kliavkoff must manage a series of moving but deeply interconnected parts, some of which are beyond his control.
(Clarity should emerge on several fronts over the next two or three months.)
The new format, which has been dubbed ‘5+1’, will encounter resistance. The 12-team proposal put forth in June created more potential for two Group of Five teams to make the playoff; the new proposal assuredly would limit access to one.
But it’s much more likely to get all the Power, Five leagues, on board — the ACC was against an eight-team field — and that could restart the expansion process after months of stagnation.
An automatic berth in a 12-team event, with the potential for a second team to participate through the at-large pool, would be a gigantic victory for the Pac-12.
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