SEC's Greg Sankey: Expanding CFP to 12 Teams Before 2026 'Won't Be Easy'

Adam WellsSeptember 3, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 10: The 2022 CFP National Championship logo is seen on the field before the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2022 CFP National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Now that we know the College Football Playoff is expanding to 12 teams, the biggest question becomes figuring out exactly when that will take effect.

Speaking to reporters Saturday, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said it "won't be easy" for the change to be implemented before the 2026 season.

"If history's a lesson to help us understand the future, it won't be easy," Sankey explained. "But minds change, motivations change. ... There's a bunch of moving parts. That's where I wish we could have used the last nine months to work. We'll have to accelerate our consideration to make it happen."

The College Football Playoff board of managers unanimously voted to approve expanding the field from four to 12 teams.

The 2026 season has been cited as the most likely date for the expansion because the playoff's current television contract with ESPN expires after 2025.

There is some wiggle room that leaves open the possibility a change could come sooner.

CFP executive director Bill Hancock told reporters in February the playoff would stay at four teams through the end of its TV deal after the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick couldn't get unanimous consent on a proposed 12-team format.

The board of managers approved that recommendation after a vote fell short by an 8-3 margin with the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 objecting. Things seem to have changed, since the board of managers just unanimously voted on expansion.

The next step in the process will likely come next week when the FBS commissioners and Swarbrick are scheduled to meet in Irving, Texas. If they can come to a unanimous agreement, there's a possibility expansion could be implemented as soon as the 2024 season.

Under the 12-team format, the field will be comprised of the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large teams chosen by the selection committee.

The current playoff format that was adopted in 2014 features four teams as determined by a selection committee. The bracket features two semifinal games, with the winners playing in the College Football Playoff National Championship.

A total of six teams have made the playoff in the first eight years of its existence. Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Georgia have all made multiple appearances. LSU and Oregon have each made a single appearance.

SEC teams have won five College Football Playoff National Championship Games, including three straight (LSU in 2019, Alabama in 2020, Georgia in 2021).