AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco told ESPN's Heather Dinich on Saturday that guaranteeing College Football Playoff spots for the Power Five conference champions in a proposed 12-team CFP would be "an enormous step in the wrong direction."
Aresco's comments were in response to a statement by outgoing Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, who said his conference "supports expansion of the CFP and believes that the Autonomy Five champions should annually qualify for the CFP."
"I didn't sense any other traction for it," Aresco told Dinich regarding Scott's proposal. "That would be an enormous step in the wrong direction from the working group's proposal as far as I'm concerned. The top six conferences, without favor, is merit-based. It's fair. It doesn't reward privilege for privilege's sake."
The Power Five conferences include the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC and Pac-12. Other FBS conference champions have been ranked higher than one (or more) Power Five league winners in past years, either via the CFP or Bowl Championship Series rankings.
The AAC is one example. Aresco notably has a vested interest in ensuring that the Power Five doesn't get automatic berths, and his perspective has merit. The AAC's champion has been among the best FBS teams of late, with No. 6 Cincinnati last year, No. 12 UCF in 2017 and No. 8 UCF 2018 among those schools.
"The most desirable outcome obviously in our view is for this to be a meritocracy, where you have to earn it," Aresco added.
"That was what was the smartest thing about the top six. I applaud the working group for doing that. To my mind and our conference, it was the most welcome part of it."
As Dinich noted, the 12-team proposal would include the six highest-ranked league champions in a given year plus the six highest-ranked non-champion teams as determined by the CFP selection committee.
The current four-team CFP has been in effect since 2014, and that format has held steady through 2020. Before that, the Bowl Championship Series was used from 1998 to 2013 to determine the two finalists for the national title. Pre-1998, there wasn't a set playoff structure, with teams finishing the year in a series of bowls as pollsters decided the national champion.