LOS ANGELES — Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff is so bullish on College Football Playoff enlargement that he informed ESPN on Friday he potentially sees the format altering before the present contracts ends following the 2025 season.
“I’m really confident that we’re going to expand the College Football Playoff,” Kliavkoff informed ESPN. “It actually wouldn’t surprise me once we agree on the format, if it happens before the end of the current term. Once you agree to the format, why wouldn’t you?”
Kliavkoff’s feedback are counter to the notion populated by the College Football Playoff board of managers in February that the format wouldn’t increase till a brand new format is put in place for the 2026 season. Others expressed skepticism on the timeline, contemplating that an enlargement determination would must be made within the upcoming months. The subsequent CFP assembly is in mid-August through Zoom, sources informed ESPN, and there is one other deliberate a month later.
Kliavkoff’s optimism relies on the tenor of the newest CFP assembly in Park City, Utah, final month. “[It was] the most productive CFP meeting I’ve been in. I’m incredibly optimistic that we’re actually going to get there.”
Can that result in a brand new format before the top of the present contract? That would require unanimous approval, which is all the time tough in a room with so many dynamics and stakeholders.
“We’re closer than we ever have been to agreeing to a format,” Kliavkoff stated. “The lack of agreement about a format held us back from doing it quickly, as opposed to slowly.
“I stated it again once we initially met on this. Once you comply with a format, you possibly can shoehorn that into the prevailing contract. If we agree on what it appears to be like like previous the prevailing contract, why would not you attempt to do it faster?”
In the fall, there was discussion about expanding the playoff field as early as 2024 or 2025, but the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 ultimately voted against it in January and February for various reasons. In order for it to still happen before the current, 12-year contract expires after the 2025 season, CFP executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN, “many, many particulars must be labored out.”
“We’ll should see,” Hancock said. “There’s much more discuss forward.” Hancock said the commissioners haven’t talked about playoff expansion since June and the presidents and chancellors haven’t discussed it since May.
“The board and the administration committee will focus on the format when the time comes,” Hancock said. “I do really feel just like the commissioners had been extra open to vary and collaborative after they met in June than they had been in February.”
Hancock said the June meeting didn’t include any talk about a potential 16-team format, and the conversation was more philosophical than it was “within the weeds” about a format. The commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick initially liked the concept of rewarding the top four teams with a bye in the 12-team format — something that would be lost with a 16-team field.
Swarbrick didn’t rule out the possibility of a sped-up timeline for a new CFP, but said it would be difficult to expand the field during the current contract.
“I believe the calendar is the impediment,” Swarbrick said. “I can see the intent being there, but it surely’s not straightforward. It’s so dependent on the scale of the playoff.”
Swarbrick was one of the authors of the original 12-team proposal, along with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, outgoing Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson. Swarbrick said the reason they favored 12 over 16 was because “we liked the byes.”
“We liked how that rewarded groups,” he said, adding that any discussions he’s been a part of regarding a 16-team field to this point have been “very conceptual.”
Sankey was not immediately available for comment.
Kliavkoff added that he hasn’t dove into the details on the impact of television contracts. One of the likely steps in the next playoff, as it evolved from four teams, will be multiple television partners. Right now, ESPN owns all the rights to the four-team playoff. Fox would be the expected favorite to join ESPN in the bidding, as the CFP aims to potentially model its postseason after the NFL’s and have multiple rights holders.
What that formally looks like still hasn’t been decided, but the notion of a potential 16-game playoff continues to be perpetuated. Kliavkoff mentioned the dynamic in the room changing now that Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren is expected to tamp down his demand for automatic qualifiers, one of the key stumbling blocks for the 12-team playoff. He also mentioned one of the ACC’s issues — a 365-day calendar review — is underway and likely to be resolved.
“I’m in favor of increasing the College Football Playoff,” Kliavkoff said. “I haven’t got explicit points between 12 and 16. I perceive the arguments for and towards.”
He added: “It’ll be fascinating now that I believe Kevin is backing away from his demand for computerized qualifiers. I’m keen to enter the room and hear.”
That 16-team idea likely brings with it calendar issues, as Swarbrick mentioned, and the likely debate of whether leagues would potentially eliminate their conference title games in favor of that weekend being reserved for the first weekend of the playoff. That would likely require a lot of contractual gymnastics and financial accommodations for those whose league title games are worth the most money.
But the idea, for example, of Ohio State playing Michigan to close the season, then playing USC in the league title game and embarking from there on a potential four-game playoff run is a daunting one. Kliavkoff said he plans to continue to stump for the Rose Bowl, even in the wake of the Big Ten poaching two of the Pac-12’s most valuable brands. The Rose Bowl has long been a contract between the Big Ten and Pac-12.
“Three hours each three years for the Rose Bowl,” Kliavkoff said. “We’re 100% dedicated. It’s essential. It’s a part of the historical past and custom of faculty athletics. When we begin throwing out traditions for cash, that is once we get ourselves in hassle. It’s not a giant ask.”
Kliavkoff wouldn’t respond to the quotes from Warren from Big Ten media days that the two hadn’t spoken since the Big Ten broke the Alliance between three leagues by taking two of the Pac-12’s schools.
“I’m not speaking about who I talked to and who I did not discuss to,” he stated.