SEC's Greg Sankey Against Automatic Bids for P5 Schools in CFP Expansion Talks

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 1, 2021

The College Football Playoff logo is shown on the field at AT&T Stadium before the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game between Notre Dame and Alabama in Arlington, Texas, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
AP Photo/Roger Steinman

There may be at least one significant holdup as the College Football Playoff management committee debates whether the sport's postseason format will expand from the current four-team system.

While key points, including how many teams there will ultimately be in a new system and whether first-round games will be played on campuses, will need to be ironed out, a major sticking point could be the idea of automatic bids for Power Five champions.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said Wednesday he's against the idea.

"I still think earning your way in is the right approach," he said, per Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic.

It is not a stretch to assume Sankey believes the SEC will be in a better position than most—if not all—other conferences to land at-large bids that are not taken up by automatic bids.

After all, the SEC has been widely considered the strongest football conference for years and could have multiple teams battling for bids at the end of the season.

If there is a situation in another conference championship game in which an underdog defeats a favorite that would likely make a hypothetical 12-team field regardless of the outcome, that could steal a spot from a potential SEC at-large team that is ranked in the Nos. 10-12 range.

An example of such a hypothetical could be a three-loss Wisconsin or Iowa team that wasn't a threat for the CFP upsetting an undefeated Ohio State or Michigan squad that would make the field with or without the Big Ten title. That would mean one fewer spot for the at-large contenders if the Badgers or Hawkeyes were granted an automatic bid.

However, one could also argue the inclusion of automatic berths for conference champions could encourage stronger nonconference scheduling.

If a team knows it can still play its way into the CFP by winning its conference later in the season, it may be more likely to risk a loss in a high-profile nonconference game in September that may have otherwise kept it out of the postseason field.

The topic might be a dividing line between members of the committee at this point and will surely come up again during the next meeting in January.