Sitting down? College football leadership actually approved an expanded playoff (and it’s good for the Pac-12) The 12-team event will begin in 2024, or maybe 2025, or even 2026

FILE - Georgia's Stetson Bennett celebrates after the College Football Playoff championship football game against Alabama, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Indianapolis. Georgia's football season is set to begin on Sept. 3, 2022, against Oregon. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

When the commissioners couldn’t deliver, the presidents stepped in and got it done: The College Football Playoff will  finally, officially, expand to 12 teams in the 2026 season — and possibly earlier.

The university presidents and chancellors who make up the CFP’s Board of Managers approved expansion Friday, approximately eight months after the conference commissioners failed to agree on the format. (ESPN was the first to report the news.)

However, the presidents left many details, including the start date, to those very same commissioners.

Next week, the leaders of the 10 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick will convene to (presumably) hammer out the specifics.

One critical piece — access — has a working framework in place: The six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large teams will make up the 12-team field.

In other words, the Pac-12 would have a clear pathway to the event as long as its champion is one of the top six. (There are only 10 conferences.)

Put another way: The Pac-12 winner could be ranked behind the champions of the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and SEC and a winner from one of the Group of Five leagues and still make the field.

That’s a significant development for the conference, which is fighting for relevance and survival after the announced departures of USC and UCLA, to the Big Ten, in 2024.

As they attempt to stay unified, the 10 remaining members have placed a heavy emphasis on media rights revenue and playoff access.

The CFP framework approved Friday by the presidents should allay concerns about the latter.

Additionally, the allocation of automatic bids to conference winners will substantially increase the media value of the Pac-12 championship — an important piece of the football inventory currently on the negotiating table — by turning it into a play-in game.

The Pac-12’s George Kliavkoff was one of three commissioners who voted against the original expansion plan last winter, along with the ACC’s Jim Phillips and the Big Ten’s Kevin Warren.

Kliavkoff later explained that the proposed model for revenue distribution and the role of the Rose Bowl were his primary concerns about expansion.

But the loss of USC and UCLA undoubtedly impacted the Pac-12’s strategy, with the access for its champion and revenue for the collective providing essential pillars of stability.

Kliavkoff was not immediately available for comment, but the conference issued the following statement:

“The Pac-12 is strongly in favor of CFP expansion and welcomes the decision of the CFP Board.  CFP expansion will provide increased access and excitement and is the right thing for our student-athletes and fans. We look forward to working with our fellow conferences to finalize the important elements of an expanded CFP in order to launch as soon (as) practicable.”

(Washington State president Kirk Schulz represents the Pac-12 on the CFP’s Board of Managers.)

Other ramifications of CFP expansion are possible:

— Could it make Oregon and Washington, who reportedly have been pursuing Big Ten membership, more interested in remaining in the Pac-12.

After all, access to the CFP would be vastly more difficult in the 16-team Big Ten, with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and USC, than in the 10-team Pac-12.

— Could the limited number of at-large berths (six) prompt the Big Ten to end its pursuit of expansion beyond 16 schools.

Adding top-tier programs like Oregon and Washington could make CFP access more difficult for the likes of Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan State.

And if the Big Ten doesn’t expand, the likelihood of Pac-12 survival increases dramatically.

Those issues will undoubtedly factor into realignment decisions made over the coming weeks. The next step for the sport is deciding when the expanded playoff will commence.

In addition to the access (six conference champs, six at-larges), several other details of the format are known:

— The four highest-ranked conference champions, as determined by the selection committee, will be the Nos. 1-4 seeds and receive first-round byes.

— The first-round games will be played on the second or third weekends of December.

— The four quarterfinals and two semifinals will be played at bowl sites (as is currently the case).

The CFP has four years remaining in its contract cycle. The earliest the event would expand is the 2024 season, if there is agreement on the logistics.

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