CFP Expansion Stalls as Pac-12 Walls: Four Options for Relief

Two things became equally clear last weekend in Indianapolis, on the field and in the boardroom.

On the field: The disparity between the best teams in Alabama and Georgia and the Pac-12 looked as great as the disparity between the Bulldogs or the Crimson Tide and an NFL team.

The Pac-12 can’t match the size, speed and physicality of players in a game where size, speed and physicality mean everything.

The same thing happens every year, whether the SEC behemoth is the last standings—Georgia this season, Alabama last season, or LSU in 2019. Match the Pac-12 champions against any of them, and it’s 35-3 at halftime.

(Of course, some teams in the country can play with SEC champions. Sure, you see Ohio State and Clemson regularly, but they’re exceptions. Check out the scores of past playoff games: Notre Dame and Oklahoma Haven’t done well any better than Cincinnati.)

In the boardroom: The conference commissioner and university president are no closer to agreement on an extension to the college football playoffs.

The event would eventually grow to 12 teams – too much money at stake for the conferences to stay with four indefinitely. The issue is timing: an extension is unlikely during the current contract cycle, which runs until the 2025 season.

Any structural change within the current period requires the unanimous consent of all 10 FBS conventions and Notre Dame, and as indicated in the Pac-12 statement on Monday: “It is clear that the six most discussed None of the expansion models is unanimously agreed, with the majority being critical. Opposing…”

The Pac-12 deftly stakes neutral turf – this is Switzerland in this turf war – and is on record as supporting any expansion model, be it eight teams or 12 teams and automatic bidding. regardless of the process.

But the strong position of so many conferences makes the consensus an overwhelmingly weak one and suggests that every aspect of the game’s machinery should be prepared for four more years of a four-team event.

That would be bad news for the Pac-12, which hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2016 and needs an extension as soon as possible. Repeated absences have eroded its reputation and recruiting, giving elite West Coast prospects a reason to leave a footprint in their quest for competitive glory.

So let’s assume that the extension is delayed until the 2026 season. What immediate steps can the Pac-12 take to improve its competitive and strategic position for the final years of the current model? How can it maximize short-term chances to secure a playoff berth?

Four come to mind.

1. Delete Partitions

The moment it becomes clear to Commissioner George Kleevkopf that the expansion won’t happen until ’26, he should assemble the Pac-12 presidents and athletic directors and push to dump the north and south division formats.

Division two in conference championship games pose unnecessary risks:

– that a team with no chance of reaching the playoffs upsets a team with a good chance of reaching the playoffs – in other words, the Pac-12 at its finest.

Example: The North winner, with a 7-5 record, reverses the South winner, with an 11-1 record.

– that a higher-ranked team will be matched with a non-ranked opponent that does not provide the fuel to start again at the last minute for playoff hopes.

Example: The fifth-ranked South winner with an 11-1 record beats the non-ranked North winner with a 7-5 record, and the playoff selection committee responds with a yawn.

Without divisions, the two best teams would meet for the title and increase the chances of a winner, whether a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, on a playoff-caliber resume.

2. Change the Schedule

Any move to reduce the number of conference games from nine to eight hinges on replacement options. The Pac-12’s media partners would ask for their money back if the conference attempted to swap the ninth conference game for a non-conference creampuff. The newly created matchups should be equal to or better than the existing inventory available for ESPN and Fox.

For this reason, there appears to be a short-term solution: the Big Ten, which also plays nine conference games.

If the Big Ten dropped to eight, there would be additional non-conference games for each league against the other. Matchups are scattered throughout the regular season to form an ongoing challenge series.

For the Big Ten, the nine versus eight issue is part of a broader decision on media rights strategy. Its contracts expire in the summer of 2023, a year before the Pac-12’s deals, and the conference is either about to begin negotiations or is already steeped in them.

Based on feedback from media partners, it can be concluded that adding a challenge series against the Pac-12 is good business – or bad business. Either way, the Pac-12 should wait for the Big Ten to decide. (This won’t happen before 2023, as both leagues have released their schedule for next fall.)

But there may be internal options available to help the Pac-12 widen its playoff path. Perhaps it implements a flex-scheduling component, revises non-convention contracts or adjusts round-robin rotations—anything to provide the best teams in a given season with the best chance of succeeding.

3. Push for Zero Inspection

The early months of the name, image and likeness era brought chaos to the recruiting process—partly because of the nature of the process, which allows athletes to pay for endorsement opportunities, but mostly because the NCAA provided oversight. has refused to do.

NIL opportunities should not be used as recruiting lures, but without the threat of a national framework or NCAA sanctions, it has become exactly that.

Pac-12 schools are potentially at a disadvantage compared to conventions that are unwilling to justify zero commitments by market realities or sound business practices.

To the extent that the PAC-12 can accelerate the implementation of zero inspection at the federal level, it must. Otherwise the brain drain will continue.

4. Borrow against future earnings

This will take a few minutes, so work with me…

Over the years, Pac-12 fans heard former commissioner Larry Scott proclaim the merits of his media strategy—specifically, that maintaining 100 percent ownership of the Pac-12 network would keep the convention resilient to an ever-changing media environment. .

Personally, the hotline cannot count the number of times Scott used the word “agile” to describe the Pac-12’s strategic position.

But the reality is the exact opposite: There is zero flexibility with Tier 1 partners (ESPN and Fox) or Pac-12 network partners (Comcast, Dish, etc.).

The conference does not have an early option, nor can it stream Pac-12 network events directly to consumers. It closed in current existence due to a 12-year agreement that was too long, provided very little risk and generated little revenue for the campuses.

Consider this: The Big Ten’s current Tier 1 contracts were signed after the Pac-12 deal, but they expired before the Pac-12 deal. he is Spry

As a result, the Pac-12 is stuck with its low-risk, low-revenue agreements for two more football seasons.

In both years, you’ll see the same number of games on the Pac-12 network, the same number of knight games on all networks, and only a marginal increase in annual revenue checks sent to schools from the convention.

However, major media deals are always negotiated ahead of their start dates. Sometime in late winter or early spring of 2023, Kliavkoff will sign contracts for the next cycle.

It happens once – and maybe even before this It happens – Pac-12 presidents must plow resources into football.