Craig Thompson Fighting For Better College Football Playoff Access

Craig Thompson Fighting For Better College Football Playoff Access

Mountain West Football

Craig Thompson Fighting For Better College Football Playoff Access

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Thompson is digging in, which is nice.


Power 5 is trying to bully the rest


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We will see what happens.

The College Football Playoff is going to expand at some point and now it looks like the full 12-year contract will be fulfilled because an agreement can not be made.

The biggest sticking point is who qualifies for the playoff. One proposal which seemed to be a good compromise and liked by the majority was a 12-team model, top-six conference champions get in, the six at-large would be the highest-rated teams left, and then the conference champions get a bye to the quarterfinals.

This makes qualifying more concrete and less like an invitational which is how the current four-team model is set up. This also would mean that nearly every year all five of the Power 5 leagues would get in plus at the very least one team from the Group of Five.

However, the tune has changed, specifically from the Power 5 commissioners, that want to allow Power 5 conference champions to automatically qualify.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren is the latest to strongly recommend his league and the other Power 5 get an auto-bid from its champion.

“It’s just very important that we have the automatic qualifiers for the five conferences,” Warren said on Friday. “It’s just the demands of the schedule … and I strongly believe that if you are crowned the Big Ten champion, that you should have an opportunity to participate for a national championship. … I feel strongly about that as I stand here today.”

The translation is that we want as much money as possible. Warren is not wrong that the schedule is more difficult but demanding those league champions get in no matter what is not fair.

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson was one of four on the committee that proposed the top-six league champions get in earn a bid. He was joined by SEC commissioner Gret Sankey, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. So, that group was not full of Group of Five teams and they agreed to that, or that was their recommendation.

Thompson is fighting hard and pushes back at what Warren wants and others that are angling for all Power 5 champs to get in.

“I fought for two years in that room — biased — to get to the six and six, represented 60-some institutions, and so I’m not willing to just walk away and give that up,” Thompson said. “And on the same note, what has qualified certain other conference champions to be guaranteed a spot that if they haven’t accomplished it in six, seven years, why do they deserve that guaranteed access? Just because they won that league?”

The top six ranked conference champions is a nice compromise, plus the odds of a Power 5 team being outside the top six is very rare.

Going through the playoff era, which dates back to the 2014 season it has happened just one time and it was 2020 during the weird Covid-19 season which saw Oregon outside of the top six of conference champions.

Looking through the BCS-era, the 2010 UConn team that won the Big East was unranked and 8-5 and got a Fiesta Bowl berth as being in a BCS league over a decade ago.

That example brings up two points. First, it shows that it is rare that it would happen that a champion from a power league that would have that poor of a record and be on the outside of the top six conference champions.

This event is rare and twice since 1998 has a team from a power conference be on the outside of the top six of league champions. What the Big Ten’s Warren wants and other Power 5 commissioners want is complete control and even if it is a once-a-decade occurance they don’t want to allow the Group of Five teams to be in the mix for a playoff.

The initial plan seems to be fair to all and would virtually always allow for all Power 5 champions to get into the eventual 12-team playoff. However, those P5 leagues are greedy and want it all.

We don’t always see eye-to-eye to AAC commissioner Mike Aresco but he makes a good point.

“There are some differences that have to be bridged somehow. Obviously we’ve made our position known that we think that a playoff that just gives favored positions to somebody based on their brand, based on who they are, is not credible and would not be a legitimate playoffs. If you can name me one that does that somewhere, let me know.”

He is not wrong at all. These leagues were made about 100 years ago and some teams are benefiting from geography and are in a Power Five league.

We will see how the voting goes when a decision is going to be made and perhaps the Group of Five can stand their ground and show historically that it would be very rare for a power conference champion that will be left out.


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