Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff calls June proposal for playoff expansion a ‘mistake’


LAS VEGAS — With negotiations regarding College Football Playoff expansion ongoing, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff expressed some frustration with how the process has unfolded over the past several months.

“I think one of the mistakes that was made in the expansion discussions was in June,” Kliavkoff said. “Before everybody needed to agree to something, we announced a proposal. I think there’s been a lot of speculation and kind of bartering through the media about who’s voting yes or no for which expansion model and I think that does a disservice.

“I think the right thing to do is get the right people in the room, settle on a model and then announce it as opposed to announce it and then try and get people to agree to it.”

The proposal, which was written by a subcommittee comprised of Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson, was unveiled publicly June 10.

When asked by ESPN on Wednesday if he regretted publicly announcing a 12-team format in June, Sankey said no, because the news would have leaked anyway.

“If we had done behind the scenes work, it would have leaked,” he said. “We cannot even keep the date of a meeting location secret. … Let’s just be transparent about that. So the notion that we were going to come up with a format model, and start making phone calls and asking for input, that would have been more problematic in my view and my colleagues’ view than simply saying, ‘We were assigned this task. Here’s the product of that task. We have work to do.’

“There’s wisdom in that,” Sankey added. “Not everybody feels that way, but we went through a lot of mental gymnastics as a subgroup with staff and advisors trying to think through that. So I don’t think that’s an impediment. I don’t think that’s a problem. I don’t think that was a wrong decision. That’s just the reality of the news cycle.”

During a meeting this week, the CFP’s board of managers was unable to agree on an expanded format and tabled discussions until January, when they will assemble in Indianapolis, the site of the national championship game.

Kliavkoff said the Pac-12’s stance has not wavered in the past several months. It is in favor of expansion as soon as possible and wants automatic qualification for Power 5 conference champions.

“We are very supportive of multiple proposals and we did not indicate that we would vote against any of the proposals that are currently being discussed, both eight and 12,” Kliavkoff said prior to the Pac-12 championship game.

Kliavkoff noted that because the 11 entities involved in the process have a contractual agreement on the current four-team model through 2025, it would take a unanimous vote to lead to any changes prior to the end of the contract.

“I think one of the great things that we started doing in the [board of managers] meeting in Dallas this past week is to start focusing on what we want the playoffs to look like beyond the current term,” he said. “I don’t think we need 11 people to say yes, to get to a solution that would be good for college football. If we find that solution, then we can focus on whether or not we can also get to that solution for 24 and 25.

“I think you start by saying, ‘What is the group that needs to agree on a model?’ We can then hopefully invite the rest to join us in. So it’s just a different paradigm about how you think about who gets to make a decision about what their model looks like.”

When a future playoff model is settled, the Pac-12 will reassess the way it structures its regular season — divisions, pods, the amount of games, etc. — and how to determine who plays in the conference title game, Kliavkoff said. The conference’s philosophy will be to institute a model that maximizes the amount of teams it can get into the playoff.

ESPN’s Heather Dinich contributed to this story.

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