Would the Pac-12 support an expanded playoff? According to commissioner Larry Scott, the conference would get behind the idea if every Power Five conference champion was included.
The Pac-12, as most college football fans know, has been the major conference left out of the four-team College Football Playoff field the most often through the first six years of the playoff’s existence. Oregon made the first playoff after the 2014 season and Washington made it following the 2016 season.
The conference was positioned for a third playoff team in six years in 2019 but No. 5 Utah lost to No. 13 Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. The Utes’ loss meant every team in the Pac-12 ended up with at least two losses.
Scott said Thursday in New York City that it was “harmful” to the league’s brand to miss the playoff so often. And that if the playoff expanded to, say, eight teams, the Pac-12 would want to make sure the champion would make it every year.
“And this year, to be the one league of the five that doesn't have a team in it, that's harmful to our positioning, our brand and everything we've got,” he said. “First and foremost, we've got to be better. And we're engaged in: Is there a better mousetrap going forward?”
Scott said the Pac-12 would only support expansion if it meant guaranteeing spots for the champions of each Power Five conference. The Pac-12 would also be protective of the Rose Bowl, its longtime partner and a showcase that dates to 1902.
Scott is right, the Pac-12 has to be better. Or, maybe instead of better, the Pac-12 just needs to have a team capable of getting through a season with one loss more often. The league is deep; every team won at least four games in 2019. But a conference full of teams who have a chance at bowl eligibility with two weeks remaining has little to no impact on the playoff.
And maybe that’s why the Pac-12 would want an eight-team playoff with a guaranteed bid. Though given the Pac-12’s luck with a playoff format it’d have a 7-5 team pull an upset over an 11-1 team in the title game to get that automatic bid.
The current four-team playoff is locked in through 2026. That could change if conferences get antsy and want to make changes before the end of that contract but, at the moment, it looks likely that a four-team playoff is here to stay for the immediate future.
Making the playoff and getting the revenue that comes with it is more vital for the Pac-12 than it is for any other major conference. The Pac-12 Network has struggled for distribution and relevancy since its inception. The ACC Network became the fourth conference-based network when it launched over the summer and — thanks to ESPN’s stake — immediately became more widely available than the Pac-12 Network.
Of course, we’re not having this conversation if Utah wins and stays ahead of Oklahoma in the playoff rankings. Instead, the Utes’ failure and Oregon’s loss in Week 13 at Arizona State mean Scott has to once again answer questions about his conference’s playoff status.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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