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SEC’s Sankey doubtful on larger CFP before 2026

4: 29 PM ET

  • Mark SchlabachESPN Senior Writer


    • Senior college football writer
    • Writer of seven books on college football
    • Graduate of the University of Georgia

ATLANTA — SEC commissioner Greg Sankey isn’t confident a 12-team College Football Playoff can make its debut prior to the 2026 season.

Sankey, talking with reporters Saturday before No. 3 Georgia‘s contest against No. 11 Oregon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, said there’s a great deal to do prior to the expanded playoff may take place and that each conference will need to can get on exactly the same page to create significant changes in a rush.

“If history’s a lesson to greatly help us understand the near future, it will not be easy,” Sankey said. “But minds change, motivations change. … There is a couple of moving parts. That is where I wish we’re able to have used the final nine months to work. We’ll need to accelerate our consideration to create it happen.”

On Friday, the faculty Football Playoff’s board of managers unanimously voted to expand the playoff to 12 teams starting in 2026. However the board, which includes 11 presidents and chancellors, encouraged the sport’s commissioners to attempt to implement the expanded format the moment 2024.

The 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick are scheduled to meet up Thursday in Irving, Texas, to start out discussions on potentially implementing the format early.

The 12-team playoff includes the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large teams.

THE FACULTY Football Playoff working group, including Sankey, first revealed in June 2021 that it had been proposing a 12-team format. Conference commissioners seemed prepared to vote to implement it, however the board of managers announced in February that the four-team model would stay in place through the finish of the 12-year television contract that runs through the 2025 season.

The ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 were against the expanded playoff. But following another wave of realignment, with USC and UCLA moving from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten and the Big Ten agreeing to a seven-year, $7 billion media rights deal in August, expanding the CFP once more took center stage.

“I’m most likely not the main one to ask what changed,” Sankey said. “Others are most likely incentivized since they made expansion decisions that get into effect early next year. They’re probably considering opportunities eventually. Ours is slated for 2025, and we made that decision knowing it may be a four-team playoff then. I’ve said repeatedly, with great meaning, that [the SEC] may have stayed at four beyond [the current deal], predicated on what occurred the final 12 months.”

Sankey said CFP expansion wouldn’t necessarily change the SEC’s timeline for bringing Oklahoma and Texas in to the league in 2026. The Sooners and Longhorns have said they plan to stay in the Big 12 until its media-rights contract expires by the end of the 2024-25 academic year. The schools would need to pay hefty buyouts to exit earlier, unless they are able to reach funds with the Big 12.

“That is clearly a decision to be produced between your Big 12 Conference and the University of Oklahoma and University of Texas,” Sankey said.

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