Will the Big Ten exert its growing influence in the discussion of expanding the college football playoffs?


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren will answer a myriad of questions about the expansion at the conference’s Media Days in Indianapolis next week.

If his time on the podium resembles last year’s opening remarks, he may not be being very outspoken. Warren will likely make an arguably deserved victory walk after the Big Ten land USC and UCLA. We’ll see if it says much about the divisive Alliance decisions that made this possible.

The advantages of this annexation for the Big Ten are obvious. The same goes for the repercussions on the Pac-12 and the rest of the Football Bowl subdivision.

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey reminded us all of that during his own league’s media days on Monday. Sankey was one of the proponents of a 12-team playoff this time last year — one that would have guaranteed spots for six conference champions and six overall teams. The Alliance – the informal coalition of the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC – rejected this proposal, in solidarity.

Yet when the subject came up on Monday, Sankey saw no more benefit to protect the inclusion of these conferences which are getting weaker day by day. He said it would be prudent to ask “if there should be any guarantees for conference champions.

“Just earn your place.”

The Big Ten and the SEC would have already done well in this 12-team, six-at-large model. No Pac-12 team has made the playoffs in five years. Clemson is the ACC’s only hope if you don’t include fair-weather friend Notre Dame. The Big 12 is on the verge of losing playoff mainstay Oklahoma to the SEC, and hopes Luke Fickell can keep Cincinnati in that elusive elite tier.

Does Warren feel the same as Sankey about protecting the conference champions? He was asked about last year’s playoff expansion at Indianapolis and said he would spend time gathering information. Then he went out and gathered new members, which crippled the Pac-12 and increased the Big Ten’s already significant influence in sports.

Competitively, the Big Ten would probably do better to adopt Sankey’s plan and cram as many general teams into whatever size playoffs we end up with. Much of the rest of college football would be worse off, however, and it’s hard to gauge just how willing he and league decision-makers are to blame for the chaos.

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