SEC commissioner Greg Sankey does not see 12-team playoff starting before 2026, but he will try

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AUSTIN, Texas – Do not count on the new, 12-team College Football Playoff to start before 2026 as of this point. That’s the message Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey shared at halftime of the game between No. 1 Alabama and Texas on Saturday.

“The 2026 season,” he said when asked what was the most likely year that the new format would begin.

Head Coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs shakes hands with SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey after the Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 33-18 in the 2022 CFP National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. 
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

“But we’ve been told to go back and look to see if it can happen for 2024 or 2025, and that’s undone,” Sankey said. “The best chance is ’26. We’ll work on ’24 and ’25. Whether it happens, that remains to be seen. I really sense from the presidents a much bigger motivation. Whether or not, again, we can make it happen early, I don’t know. When you have clarity at the presidential level, it’s certainly a motivating factor.”

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Sankey quickly pushed off any talk of eliminating various conference championship games when the new playoff format adds more games at the end of the regular season.

Not Going Anywhere

“I think so. Those have relevance, meaning,” he said. “You’ve got to determine a conference champion. There are going to be conference champions.”

(L-R) College Basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale receives an autographed basketball from SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey prior to the start of the game between the Texas A&M Aggies and Arkansas Razorbacks in the Semifinal game of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Amalie Arena on March 12, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. 

(L-R) College Basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale receives an autographed basketball from SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey prior to the start of the game between the Texas A&M Aggies and Arkansas Razorbacks in the Semifinal game of the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament at Amalie Arena on March 12, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. 
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

That could happen without a conference championship game, however.

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Sankey also is not leaning to shortening the 12-game regular season because of more playoff games.

“No, not right now,” he said.

For player safety, he offered fewer plays in games.

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“I think we should look at ways to manage the regular season – how the clock is managed,” he said. “You could reduce the number of plays in a game with the clock rules, and doing it reasonably.”

12-Team Playoff Means Big Money

Sankey was asked if additional television partners added to ESPN, such as FOX or others, to the College Football Playoff could drive the total package to over $2 billion.

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“I don’t guess on that,” he said. “Here’s what has to happen. We’re going to go to the market and find out what a 12-team playoff will be valued at, and who will be interested. Until we know that, whether it’s one partner, which I think it could still be, or multiple partners, which it could be, and what its value is, I don’t know. Those are good tweets, and they fill in space. But that’s not our reality.”

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey is on the field for pre-game warm ups at the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl between the Houston Cougars and the Auburn Tigers on December 28, 2021 at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama.  

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey is on the field for pre-game warm ups at the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl between the Houston Cougars and the Auburn Tigers on December 28, 2021 at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama.  
(Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Sankey differentiated between the SEC’s upcoming addition of Texas and Oklahoma by 2025 to the Big Ten’s recent addition of USC and UCLA from The Pacific-12 Conference in the coming years.

“Our expansion is in many ways unique because we’re restoring rivalries – Texas-Arkansas, Texas-Texas A&M or Texas A&M-Texas, depending on one’s view,” he said. “Oklahoma-Missouri was one-fourth of the Big 8 Conference previously, and they’ll play again. We’ll have the border sharing of Arkansas and Oklahoma playing. The question is do they happen every year? Our motivation is to move our teams more frequently through our campuses. Whatever we can do to facilitate those real, traditional encounters needs to be in the forefront of our mind. Even if not played every year, we’ve got the ability to continue rivalries.”

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