Sources: SEC, Big Ten would hold rights to first-round byes in new proposed CFP format

What the College Football Playoff would've looked like last season in a 14-team format. (Taylar Sievert/Yahoo Sports)
What the College Football Playoff would've looked like last season in a 14-team format. (Taylar Sievert/Yahoo Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS — A day after news emerged of a proposed new model to an expanded College Football Playoff, many questions linger, perhaps none more important than the seeding and bye structure of the 14-team field.

Champions of the SEC and Big Ten would hold exclusive rights on the two first-round byes, according to one version circulated to several college athletic administrators. The version has not been finalized and is only being socialized before more exploratory work on the format, those with knowledge of the model told Yahoo Sports.

Such a concept — guaranteed byes for the Big Ten and SEC — is an unusual but somewhat expected maneuver from college football’s goliaths. It’s also a move that has garnered pushback from administrators outside of those two conferences.

In a 14-team model that officials are socializing with their leagues, the Big Ten and SEC would each receive three automatic qualifiers, with the ACC and Big 12 getting two each and the Group of Five’s best team qualifying as well. Such a model would feature three at-large spots to the highest-ranked teams outside of the automatic qualifiers.

The model calls for the top two seeds to have byes into the second round. Under the 12-team format that will be used this fall and in 2025, the four highest-ranked conference champions are granted byes. In the 14-team version circulating across the country, the ACC and Big 12, the other two major conferences, would not have access to obtaining a bye — an unprecedented move and perhaps a tipping point for some administrators in those leagues.

The seeding and pairings of a 14-team bracket is expected to operate in a similar way to the current structure, where the CFP Selection Committee’s rankings would equate to seeds Nos. 1-14. Pairings of the six first-round games would be made in the normal method, including the No. 8 seed playing 9 and 7 vs. 10, presumably at the home field of the better seed. Notre Dame, as an independent, would be guaranteed one of the three at-large spots if it finished in the top 14 of the CFP’s rankings.

However, administrators caution that the model could change. Commissioners are expected to meet virtually over the next week to begin further examining the format.

There is much tension and consternation around the situation. There is an urgency, too. CFP leaders are in a race against time to agree to several unresolved issues before extending their new television contract with ESPN. The current contract ends after the 2025 playoff.

Aside from the format, officials need to agree on a new revenue-distribution model and voting structure — two concepts that the SEC and Big Ten are expected to significantly shape. The two leagues are expected to receive more revenue and more power in governance decisions.