Just a few months ago, the news that the powers that be recommended an expansion to 12 teams in the College Football Playoff seemed like it’d be the biggest development of this offseason. Oklahoma and Texas‘ impending move from the Big 12 to the SEC has blown that out of the water.
The last major round of conference realignment may have ended the Big East football league, and there were big shifts, but nothing as seismic as the Sooners and Longhorns joining an already-stacked SEC. The news has some higher-ups in the college football world saying that the sport should take a step back when it comes to the College Football Playoff now.
Ohio State hasn’t had much of an issue with the current four-team format, winning the national title in 2014 and making the field three more times, including each of the last two seasons. The Buckeyes have found themselves on the outside looking in as well, but it certainly makes sense that they may be less excited for a bigger field than most others.
“I think the pause button should be hit,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told Yahoo Sports, of playoff expansion. “We need to evaluate the landscape and what it’s going to look like. We still need to evaluate the 12-team playoff. We don’t need to rush into that when there’s legitimate concerns that need to be addressed.”
The 12-team playoff starting in 2023 looked possible a few weeks ago. That prospect is diminishing, as OSU AD Gene Smith recommends the “pause button” be hit. Also, other leaders around the sport are anxious to see multiple non-ESPN bidders. https://t.co/ga0sXiDDHg
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) July 30, 2021
ESPN currently has exclusive rights to the playoff. The network is also under scrutiny for its alleged role in the Oklahoma and Texas move to the SEC, which it will have exclusive TV rights for in a few years. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has publicly pointed the finger at ESPN as his conference looks to be on the potential brink of collapse.
It’s not a huge surprise that an influential Big Ten AD like Smith, whose school has valuable relationships with both FOX and ESPN, could want to slow things down. There is now more of a push to discuss opening up the bidding for College Football Playoff TV rights, especially if things will expand to 12 teams, adding significantly more games.
From Pete Thamel’s report for Yahoo Sports:
Other leaders around the country have expressed a skepticism toward the financial value of allowing ESPN to continue to be the sole owner of the most powerful rights in college football. The College Football Playoff is, essentially, a television contract with ESPN that runs through the 2025 season. ESPN owns all of it now, which includes three playoff games and other New Year’s six bowls.
Right now, ESPN has exclusive negotiating rights because it owns the contract. The idea of bringing those rights to open market has only increased around the sport now that ESPN rode shotgun on the bold and expensive move of Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 for the SEC.
The notion among many leaders around the sport: Why allow ESPN access to the most valuable set of rights around the sport without other bidders to drive up the price?
Playoff expansion has been a popular move for fans, especially those who don’t root for the very limited number of powerhouse programs that currently have easy access to the four-team field. It would be a shame if it gets shot down because of this. At the same time, it is understandable that many powers don’t want ESPN running roughshod over the whole sport, even more than they already do. However, even SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who is tied at the hip to that network, isn’t super enthusiastic about the expansion. The SEC probably expects even more dominance over the four-team CFP than it already has.
Sankey: “We can simply stay with the four best teams if there are concerns with the 12-team format.”
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) July 30, 2021
There is plenty to work out for the sport as a whole right now, but hopefully the destabilization of the Big 12 doesn’t put College Football Playoff expansion on hold for long.
The post Ohio State AD Wants ‘Pause’ On College Football Playoff Expansion Amid Conference Shakeups appeared first on The Spun.
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