Last week the Big Ten and Big 12 poached a combined six teams from the Pac-12 and permanently altered the college football landscape. As realignment continues to shuffle conference lineups and the sport's power structure, SEC commissioner Gregg Sankey is lobbying for changes to the 12-team College Football Playoff. The planned system, which was adopted in December of last year and goes into effect in 2024, guarantees spots for the six highest-ranked conference champions.
"I think it is wise for us to take a step back and reconsider what the (playoff) format might look like, given these changed circumstances," Sankey said Tuesday on the Paul Finebaum Show. "We have not met on that [topic], and I have not had any meaningful conversations, but I think we have to acknowledge that it is on everyone's mind, pending the outcome of some of these membership movements .... Right now, we still have 10 FBS conferences, but there are obviously questions on whether or not that will remain. And yeah, that could create a thought in my mind and in others' of some level of adjustment being made."
The Pac-12 is teetering on the brink of extinction. The conference had already lost USC and UCLA to the Big Ten prior to last December's CFP agreement, but Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah have also defected in recent weeks. Cal, Stanford, Washington State, and Oregon State are the league's only remaining members.
Sankey says including the West Coast in the CFP was one of the reasons he supported automatic bids in the original CFP agreement.
"One of the reasons I gave, as commissioner of the SEC, is that even here in the SEC, we wanted college football to be strong nationally," he told Finebaum. "We have not seen a participant from west of the Rockies participate since 2016 [with Washington]. The expansion was about making sure we brought about Western football. Well, now what has happened is that Western football has come into other conferences. The net of that is that circumstances have changed."
The CFP's current contract runs through the 2025 season, meaning that the playoff could undergo changes to fit the updated geography of the sport -- which is still subject to more change -- in time for the 2026 season. Sankey's SEC is the only conference to field a participant every year since the CFP's inception.