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A clean-up of sorts has been left to the powers that be who run the College Football Playoff. In what was a regularly scheduled meeting, the CFP Management Committee -- comprised of 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick -- will soon be forced to consider what has become of college athletics as a whole.

Not just football, the entire enterprise. The meeting itself will be strange, for starters, because some of the participants will have caused the mess.

Still, the clean-up has to begin somewhere. Until Congress or media rights partners or the NFL or some other outside force takes over, college athletics -- through the CFP -- is still their business to run.

Following last week's dizzying reorganization of college sports, a reconsideration -- if not a clean-up -- is due.

One of those FBS commissioners referred to it as "an existential crisis."

Playoff composition

Addressing that crisis begins with the assumed loss of the Pac-12 -- at least as a Power Five conference. If the league -- or its stature among its peers -- goes away as expected, everything from bowl game slots to the NCAA Constitution itself is impacted.

Primarily, though, it affects the playoff. And increasingly, the playoff impacts college sports as a whole.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey made considerable news this week when he told ESPN's Paul Finebaum that "circumstances have changed" in considering the structure of the playoff, which will expand to 12 teams beginning in 2024.

His words were barely coded.

As decided 11 months ago, the expanded CFP was supposed to be populated by the six highest-ranked conference champions plus six at-large teams for the next two seasons. However, with a major conference shift and rampant realignment possibly continuing, speculation about the expanded playoff format has run wild.

At a minimum, the CFP Board of Managers (university presidents) must consider whether there are six conferences worthy of automatic qualification amid the loss of the Pac-12. Beyond that, given the consolidation of brands and revenues in the Big Ten and SEC, should any conference receive an automatic berth?

Changing to a wide-open "12 best" playoff model would obviously benefit the two superconferences. In any given year, the Big Ten and SEC could combine to fill the overwhelming majority of the field.

In nine years of the current four-team CFP model, the SEC (11) and Big Ten (eight) have combined to occupy 19 of 36 total spots in the bracket (52.8%).

"I think it's wise for us to step back and reconsider what the format might look like considering these [realignment] changes," Sankey said ominously.

"Ominously" because the title of "most powerful person college sports" has fallen to him. Whether he likes it or not, Sankey's words impact both his conference and college athletics as a whole. The majority of his peers are from TV, marketing and entertainment.

Sankey, who comes from a traditional athletic administrative background, bears the responsibility gracefully.

At various times over the past couple of years, he has supported not only a "12 best" playoff and but also a playoff within his own conference. As leagues continue to grow, it's possible. Don't assume he's kidding. Power, revenue, recruiting ... all of it is being consolidated.

"To the extent that there was five, there obviously now is four [power conferences]," one Power Five athletic director said.

Forget that. Is it a Power Two with the Big Ten and SEC with the ACC and Big 12 making up a second, albeit still powerful, tier?

It's logical to assume the end game for the Big Ten and SEC is a "12 best" playoff format. That would allow more shots at championships but also more championships, period. The two conferences have combined to win 14 of the last 17 national titles (13 by the SEC alone). However, the Big Ten still has the most overall appearances in the BCS and New Year's Six bowls (50 -- all since 1998).

In a "12 best" format utilizing each season's final CFP Rankings, the Big Ten and SEC -- based on future membership as of 2024 -- would have combined to place at least six teams (50%) in the playoff every year of its existence, taking up 66 of 108 total slots available -- an average of 7.3 per season. Three-quarters of the 2019 and 2017 fields would have been comprised of Big Ten and SEC teams with the conferences combining to place nine teams in the playoff each of those seasons.

The real end game is revenue. As it stands, each Power Five conference gets a base CFP share of $80 million.

"One fewer Power Five conference means more money for the other four," said one Power Five AD, "but how exactly do you distribute it?"

Set to be discussed in the coming months, the CFP distribution model will be key to the future of college athletics.

Who survives? Who doesn't? Will the CFP take over the FBS?

In an extreme scenario, could the Power Two go off on their own?

That's what this all about, too.

Currently, each league earns $80 million despite the size of its membership. As such, the 10-team Pac-12 is presently awarded more per school ($8 million) than the SEC or Big Ten (14-team leagues, $5.7 million per team). You can now see why the Big Ten expanding to 20 or the SEC expanding past 16 might be tempting.

Expect distribution adjustments at least along membership lines, if not conference prominence lines. Another conversation topic is awarding extra shares based on CFP qualification or success.

The current CFP contract has three years remaining, though the 12-team playoff is set to begin in 2024. Negotiations on a new CFP media rights deal beginning with the 2026 season will begin in 6-8 months.

Early estimates have put the value of the new CFP deal upwards of $2 billion annually. That would be 2.7 times more revenue that what is currently produced per season ($720 million).

It would also be, by far, the biggest media rights deal in college sports history.

"I expect it to be a very robust negotiation," Big Ten commissioner Tony Pettiti told CBS Sports.

It is up to the Management Committee to make any changes to the playoff structure and/or revenue model. Those CEOs would have to agree unanimously to change the format.

Distribution changes may be more complex to approve.

Going from 10 to nine FBS conferences, it is not known for sure what the exact voting structure would be, according to CFP sources.

Prior to the events of last week, a 12-team playoff with the "6+6" composition was assured from 2024-25. In 2026, virtually the only certainty in a new contract was there would be 12 playoff teams.

Even that is not assured now. One high-profile industry source put it this way: Everything is on the table from the size of the field to automatic qualifiers. The issue: Who votes, and who has authority?

Sankey has been an advocate for what he calls "The Big Tent" -- access for all. But the simple change from "6+6" to "12 best" could cause further upheaval.

"If we don't have clarity, those issues around format, seeding, placement and teams will be a bit more drawn out," he said. "I'm one of those who thinks 12 teams can continue to work."

Power Four ... or Power Two?

The term "Power Five" essentially is defined in only two places. One is the NCAA Constitution which, since 2015, has allowed weighted voting rights to the "Autonomous Five" conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC).

The other is the CFP, which distributes revenue to those five conferences. Both are important for different reasons.

The constitution's language gives those five leagues voting privileges in legislation they want to push through.

Sankey is already on record as criticizing the composition of the NCAA Board of Governors, the association's chief governing body.

"You're assigning all the legal and financial responsibility to a nine-member group that has a minority representation from the [power] groups that are generating the financial and legal realities," Sankey said earlier this summer. "It really is backwards."

He continued speaking about power conference influence: "That's our world. To assign decision-making authority to a room that is not invested the same way is long-term problematic. That's as direct and blunt as I could be."

If the NCAA chooses not to recognize the primacy of the power conferences, those leagues will take matters into their own hands.

Meanwhile, a league dies before our eyes. If the Pac-12 does indeed go away, its name would simply be eliminated from that "Autonomous Five" language in the constitution. If the Pac-12 added members and was composed of at least eight schools, it would retain its autonomous status only if no one raises questions to the NCAA Board of Directors, the body that approves all legislation.

Expect those questions to be raised if, let's say, there was a merger of the four remaining Pac-12 members with the Mountain West.

Then what happens? Do the remaining Power Four stick together? Are the Big Ten and SEC willing to operate on the same plane as the ACC and Big 12, or do they attempt to exert even more influence given their prominence?

Any vote relating to a conference or governance structure would require 75% of the board to pass it as emergency legislation. That's where it gets complicated again. Only six of the 26 board members are from Power Five schools. You know, those familiar with being a major conference. Utah president Taylor Randall is a member of the board representing the Pac-12; the Utes join the Big 12 next July.

The board doesn't meet again until October unless emergency legislation is needed.

Meanwhile, CFP commissioners have three weeks to grab a mop. And the mess just keeps spreading.

"How many FBS conferences will exist in 30 or 60 days?" Sankey asked rhetorically.