Keeping College Football Playoff At Four Is A Boon For SEC Recruiting

Feb 22, 2022, 12:27 PM
Georgia Bulldogs - Alabama Crimson Tide - College Football Playoff National Championship...
Justin Shaffer #54 of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 33-18 during the 2022 CFP National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY –College football fans let out a collective groan once Bill Hancock and the College Football Playoff announced that it was not going to expand and will finish out the contract that will feature four teams through the 2026 title game.

Trying to find a middle ground to get playoff expansion is going to be tricky as the conferences all want different things. The ACC feels there are more important things in the college sports world, plus they have an eye on player safety, the Big Ten wants automatic bids for power conferences, as does the Pac-12 but the West Coast-based league wants an expanded field. Plus, there is the Rose Bowl that has a disproportionate amount of power by wanting its 5 p.m. ET, New Year’s Day time slot, and playing Big Ten vs. Pac-12. That game also stands in the way.

The SEC is willing to go with the flow and won’t stand in the way of an expanded field. They voted in favor of the 12-team proposal that failed. However, with no new format, commissioner Greg Sankey and his league may not support a 12-team field as it has done so during these current negotiations.

Regardless of the playoff format, the SEC will be fine and they know that.

They have had two teams make the playoff, and in a field that has six, eight, 10 or 12 the SEC will very likely be the most represented league.

However, the exclusivity of the four-team playoff is a big deal for schools that make the field of four especially in recruiting, with the SEC typically having the best classes in the country.

Being able to proclaim that your school is a playoff team holds a lot of weight so a league like the SEC can keep its current stranglehold on top talent as their league has been a frequent representative in the four-team field.

In an expanded field of 12 teams, more teams could make that claim.

Unrivaled’s Alex Kirry pointed out that recruiting is very much why the field remains at four since teams want to accumulate talent, and specifically the SEC’s rethinking of support for a 12-team field.

“Here’s my theory. [Big 12 commissioner] Bob Bowlsby said it’s horrific that they’re not going to expand to 12 teams,” Kirry said. “It’s not what he wanted. It’s not what the Pac-12 wanted. That just shows you the pecking order, right? You got the SEC, you got the Big Ten, you have these other places who go, ‘yeah, we’re good the way it is.’

“It’s not about the actual make-up of the playoff. Of course, they’re going to get more teams in. The SEC would get three teams in, four teams in on a really good year [with a 12-team playof]. The reason is because they get this edge for recruiting still until through the end of this contract, they will have a massive recruiting edge.”

The Pac-12 wants expansion but they voted in line with “The Alliance” members Big Ten and ACC. Adding more teams to a playoff field could see the Pac-12 get an edge back in recruiting.

“What does George Kliavkoff want? Visibility, national television, more visibility across the country for the Pac-12,” Kirry said.”The way you can get it is if you have a team or two that are knocking on that door of the College Football Playoff. If Utah and USC get that, if one of those teams gets the auto-bid as a P5 champion and the other gets an at large bid and you got those teams going from the Pac-12 you can then tell those recruits when you’re sitting in front of them, ‘you’re going to play in the College Football Playoff because you’re in the Pac-12.'”

Recruiting is the lifeblood of college football programs.

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