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College Football Playoff expansion: SEC’s Greg Sankey, other commissioners vent over delay of 12-team format

College Football Playoff expansion became a scorching hot topic last June when the CFP working group proposed a 12-team format that included six automatic bids for the highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large bids. That discussion came to a screeching halt on Friday when the CFP Board of Managers revealed that the current four-team model will remain in place through the end of the current 12-year contract following the 2025 season.

That set off a fury of comments by various conference commissioners, most notably from the SEC’s Greg Sankey.

“I don’t think [developing a new format] becomes any easier,” Sankey told the Associated Press. “In fact, I think it becomes more complicated. From our perspective, we’re going to have to go and rethink our position based on how others have approached the conversation that, really, they initiated. And I don’t expect that to get any easier.”

Sankey pointed out to Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger that those who voted against expansion were clamoring for it as recently as three days ago. “If that isn’t the definition of mixed signals, I don’t know what the definition might be,” said Sankey

“If we can’t make the decision now around a format that was widely acclaimed as innovative and creative and met a wide variety of needs, we’re all going to have to go back and rethink that,” he continued. “The outcome hasn’t been a healthy representation of decision making.”

It is possible, Sankey admitted, that the SEC will reconsider its own stance on the 12-team proposal that he helped create and, instead, back the current or a tweaked four-game format.

Other conference commissioners also sounded off on the delay in expansion.

“I share the disappointment felt by many college football fans today,” said first-year Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff. “I look forward to working collaboratively with other Commissioners to deliver a football playoff format that is more inclusive and balanced.”

“I think there was honest and good effort, but at the end of the day, the self-interests and those people that employ us … had interests beyond all vs. what I deem to be the collective best interest of college football,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson told The Athletic. “You know the scorecard. There were eight people in favor of the 12-team proposal. I can’t venture a guess as to what changes 12-18 months from now.”

Dodd: Lack of leadership, divided interests squash playoff expansion hopes

It’s fair to say that one of the people who wasn’t in favor of expansion is ACC commissioner Jim Phillips. He detailed his opposition to expansion last month and his desire for a year-long review of college athletics as a whole.

“To the ACC, we don’t have a College Football Playoff problem,” Phillips said. “We have a college football and collegiate athletics/NCAA problem. We don’t feel this is the right time [to expand]. It doesn’t foreclose in the future about having an expanded playoff.”

The four-team concept was announced in 2012 and went into effect after the 2014 regular season.

“Even though the outcome did not lead to a recommendation for an early expansion before the end of the current 12-year contract, the discussions have been helpful and informative,” said CFP executive director Bill Hancock. “I am sure they will serve as a useful guide for the Board of Managers and for the Management Committee as we determine what the Playoff will look like beginning in the 2026-2027 season.”

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