LOS ANGELES — Pac-12 Commissioner George Klyavkov was so upbeat about the College Football Playoff expansion that he told ESPN Friday that he would likely see the format change before the current contracts expire after the 2025 season.
“I’m really confident that we’ll expand the college football game,” Klyavkov told ESPN. “It wouldn’t actually surprise me once the format is agreed upon, if it happens before the end of the current term. Once you agree to the format, why not do it?”
Kliavkoff’s comments run counter to the idea published by the College Football Playoff Board of Directors in February that the format will not expand until a new format for the 2026 season is in place. Others have expressed skepticism about the schedule, arguing that a decision to expand will have to be made in the coming months. The sources told ESPN that the next meeting of the Central Coordination Committee is in mid-August via Zoom, and there is another planned one a month later.
Kliavkoff’s optimism is based on the substance of the recent CFP meeting in Park City, Utah, last month. “[It was] The most productive CFP I’ve attended. I’m incredibly optimistic that we’ll actually get there. “
Could this lead to a new format before the end of the current decade? This will require unanimous approval, which is always difficult in a room with so many dynamics and stakeholders.
“We are closer than we have ever been to agreeing to a formula,” Klyavkov said. “The lack of agreement on form hindered us from doing it quickly, rather than working slowly.
“You said it again when we originally met about this. Once you’ve agreed to the format, you can bring that into the current contract. If we seem to agree beyond the current contract, why not try 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 eventually voted against it in January and February for various reasons. In order for that to continue before the current, 12-year contract expires, after the 2025 season, “a lot, many details will have to be worked out,” Bill Hancock, chief executive officer of CFP for ESPN, told ESPN.
“We’ll have to see,” Hancock said. “There is a lot of talk ahead.” Hancock said commissioners have not talked about expanding the annex since June and chiefs and advisers have not discussed it since May.
“The board and management committee will discuss the format when the time is right,” Hancock said. “I feel the commissioners were more open to change and cooperation when they met in June than they were in February.”
Hancock said the June meeting did not include any talk of a potential 16-team coordination, and that the conversation was more philosophical than it was “in the weeds” about coordination. Notre Dame commissioners and sporting director Jacques Swarbrick initially loved the concept of rewarding the top four teams with a 12-team farewell – something that would be lost with 16 teams.
Swarbrick did not rule out the possibility of accelerating the schedule for the new CFP, but said it would be difficult to expand the field during the current decade.
“I think the calendar is the hurdle,” Swarbrick said. “I can see the intent to be there, but it’s not easy. It depends heavily on the size 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 Paulsby, and Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson. Swarbrick said the reason they preferred 12 over 16 was because we “liked goodbyes.”
“We liked how that rewards the teams,” he said, adding that any discussions he’s been involved in regarding a 16-team field so far have been “very theoretical”.
Sanki could not be reached for comment.
Klyavkov added that he did not go into detail about the impact of television broadcasting contracts. One possible step in the upcoming playoff, as it evolved from four teams, will be multiple television partners. Currently, ESPN owns all rights to the four-team playoff. Fox will be the expected favorite to join ESPN in the bidding, as the CFP aims for a post-NFL post-season model and has several rights holders.
What that officially looks like is yet to be decided, but the idea for a 16 playoff match is still there. Klyavkov stated that the dynamic in the room is changing now that Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren is expected to limit his request for the automatic playoffs, one of the major hurdles in the 12-team playoff. He also mentioned that one of the ACC’s problems – the 365-day calendar review – is in progress and likely to be resolved.
“I am in favor of expanding college football matches,” Klyavkov said. “I don’t have specific issues between 12 and 16. I understand the arguments for and against.”
“Now it would be interesting to think that Kevin is backing down from his auto-qualifying claim. I’m ready to go down the hall and listen,” he added.
The idea of 16 teams is likely to bring issues with it to the calendar, as Swarbrick mentioned, and potential debate over whether tournaments will likely eliminate their conference titles in favor of having that weekend booked into the first weekend of the playoff . It will likely require a lot of contract gymnastics and finances for those whose league title matches are worth the most money.
But the idea of, say, Ohio State play Michigan to finish the season, then USC play the league title game and proceed from there to a potential four-game playoff, is a daunting one. Kliavkoff said he plans to continue the hunt 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 always been a decade between the Big Ten and the Pac-12.
“Three hours every three years for Rose Bowl,” Klyavkov said. “We’re 100 percent committed. It’s important. It’s part of the history and tradition of college athletics. When we start getting rid of tradition for money, that’s when we get ourselves into trouble. It’s not much of a request.”
Kliavkoff hasn’t responded to quotes from Warren from his Big Ten media days that the two haven’t spoken since the Big Ten shattered the alliance between three leagues by taking two Pac-12 schools.
“I’m not talking about who I talked to and who I didn’t talk to,” he said.
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