Potential proposals from Big Ten, SEC seek more CFP automatic qualifier spots for the conferences

The SEC and Big Ten are seeking more control and representation in the College Football Playoff going forward, but leaders from other conferences are pushing back. (Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports)
The SEC and Big Ten are seeking more control and representation in the College Football Playoff going forward, but leaders from other conferences are pushing back. (Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports) (USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Connect / Reuters)

Washington State president Kirk Schulz says the Pac-12 never planned to “hold up” the College Football Playoff’s latest format change for the 2024 and 2025 events, but he is “worried” about modifications to the format starting in 2026, including potential proposals from the Big Ten and SEC that seek for the leagues to be guaranteed multiple automatic qualifier spots.

“I worry about any league getting a certain number of automatic berths beyond their champion,” said Schulz, a member of the CFP Board of Managers, made up of university presidents from each FBS league and Notre Dame. “I wouldn’t be alone in that.”

In a virtual meeting on Tuesday, CFP presidents adopted a long-expected change to the 12-team expansion format through the necessary unanimous vote, approving a move from a 6+6 model to a 5+7 format for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. The change adds an at-large spot and decreases the automatic qualifying spots from six to five in light of the Pac-12 realignment situation.

Schulz delayed a vote on the issue last month in order to pitch a proposal to the board Tuesday seeking for the Pac-12 to retain its revenue and voting rights privileges as a Power Five conference starting with a new contract in 2026. There was “not a lot of support” for the proposal, Schulz said in describing the feedback from presidents.

Nonetheless, he voted for the move to change to a 5+7 format. However, he expressed concern for potential format changes that could come in the future.

The CFP Management Committee, the 10 FBS conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, are scheduled to meet in Dallas on Wednesday in a critical gathering that is expected to produce “ideas” and potentially “proposals” for future revenue distribution, voting rights structure and format — all of them unresolved issues that are delaying the agreement of a new television contract with ESPN.

The SEC and Big Ten are expected to want more revenue in a new distribution model, more authority in a voting structure and, maybe most notably, more access in a new format.

“My commissioner tells me that there was an idea floated of a single league getting four [automatic qualifiers] into the playoff,” Schulz told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday. “You go, ‘Boy that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be well embraced by football fans around the country.’ The commissioners are fantastic but they are paid to look out for the betterment of their conference.”

Schulz believes that presidents should be more involved in such decisions and work “alongside” the commissioner group instead of rubber-stamping recommendations from them.

During Tuesday’s meetings, presidents agreed with Schulz. Presidents will now hold more regular calls (each month) to discuss not just CFP items and recommendations from commissioners but the state of college athletics in general.

Schulz describes Wednesday’s commissioners meeting as likely to produce “critical ideas” for the future of the CFP and he hopes such proposals will be made public, with the presidents involved much before the approval process.

“It might be contentious moving forward,” he said. “I want to make sure that the presidents are talking about these things before commissioners say, ‘Here’s what’s in front of you [for approval]. Hope you like it.’”

As for his own league, the Pac-12, despite only having two members gong forward, retains a spot on both CFP governance groups. Each Pac-12 team will receive its standard Power Five revenue distribution of around $6 million over the next two years. Beyond that, Schulz is hoping the league remains “involved.” The Pac-12 has at least briefly explored rebuilding the conference or merging with the Mountain West.

“There’s a lot in flux right now,” he said. “It’s really, can we stay in the conversation?”