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Expansion of College Football Playoff could be ‘in some jeopardy,’ says Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby

The Baylor Bears, hosting the Big 12 Championship trophy after their 21-16 victory over Oklahoma State, would likely have a place at the table if the College Football Playoffs were expanded to 12 teams, as proposed earlier in the year by several conference administrators.Ron Jenkins/Getty

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby says expanding the College Football Playoff as soon as the 2024 season is “in some jeopardy” if an agreement on a new format cannot be reached soon.

Speaking Saturday to reporters before No. 9 Baylor’s 21-16 victory over No. 5 Oklahoma State in the Big 12 championship game, Bowlsby said expansion talks have slowed to the point where the chances of implementing a new format before the current 12-year agreement ends after the 2025 season are waning.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, met early this week and in Dallas and could still not reach consensus on a proposal to expand the playoff from four to 12 teams.

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“Well, just for purely logistical reasons year 11 [2024] is probably in some jeopardy at this point, just because there’s good and appropriate things you have to do in order to host the games,” Bowlsby said.

“I think it’s also a possibility that we wouldn’t be able to do it for year 12 [2025] and we’ll be talking about what do we do in year 13 and beyond because you know, for all intents and purposes, the CFP goes away [after 2025]. There is no operating agreement beyond 2025-26 and there are no contracts that bind us beyond ‘25-26,” he said.

Currently, it takes consensus of all 11 members of the management committee to move forward on a playoff proposal that would still need approval from the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the CFP.

The next scheduled meeting of the commissioners and the presidents is around the national championship game in Indianapolis on Jan. 10, but the commissioners could convene again sooner.

One of the issues that has become a stumbling block to expansion is which conferences are guaranteed automatic access for their champions.

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Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren was the first commissioner to come out publicly in support for guaranteeing access for all Power Five conference champions and just the highest-ranked champion from the five other conferences.

“So I’m a big believer in the automatic qualifier for the Big Ten conference and the other Power Five conferences,” Warren told SiriusXM this week.

In the 12-team proposal unveiled in June and put forth by Bowlsby, Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey, Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick and Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson recommended the six highest-ranked conference champions from all 10 FBS leagues make the playoff along with six highest-ranked at-large selections.

Could Oregon’s coach be on the move?

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said he fully expects to be approached with job offers from other schools.

“It happens every single year,” Cristobal said after the 10th-ranked Ducks lost, 38-10, to Utah in the Pac-12 title game on Friday night. “Every year our entire staff, whether it’s behind the scenes, whether it’s public or not, we’ve always had different people come for our people, including myself.”

There are reports that Cristobal would be a top candidate at his alma mater Miami if coach Manny Diaz is fired.

Cristobal, a Miami native who won two national championships with the Hurricanes before serving as an assistant coach in different capacities, said he hasn’t been offered anything from any school as of yet.

“Let’s not create narratives as we sit here in this press conference,” said Cristobal, whose Ducks lost to Utah twice in three weeks by a combined final of 76-17. “Oregon is working on some stuff for me, that’s what I have right now, and that’s the extent of that conversation.

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“If I had any plans, if I had a decision to make or if I had something to report, I would. If there is anything to report, I’d report it. I always have.”

The Oregonian first reported that Cristobal was offered a contract extension, with hopes of keeping the 51-year-old in Eugene.

Cristobal, in his fourth season at Oregon, led the Ducks to two Pac 12 titles in 2019 and 2020 before getting manhandled Friday night in Las Vegas.

Cristobal, who earns an annual salary of $5.5 million, has received extensions two of the past three seasons. Last December, he received a new six-year, $27.3 million deal that goes through the 2025 season.

Cristobal, who will owe Oregon a $9 million buyout if he leaves for another school before Jan. 14, refused to speculate what he may or may not do if offered the lateral move to Miami.

Akron hires Oregon’s OC as its coach

Akron hired Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead as head coach on Saturday, bringing back a former assistant for the Zips to take over a struggling program that has gone 3-29 over the last three seasons.

Moorhead has been a head coach at Mississippi State (14-12 in two seasons) and FCS Fordham (38-13 in four seasons) and has been directing the Ducks’ offense the last two seasons.

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Moorhead, a Pittsburgh native who was an assistant at Akron from 2004-08, spent two seasons as Penn State’s offensive coordinator in between his head coaching jobs at his alma mater, Fordham, and Mississippi State.

New athletic director Charles Guthrie fired coach Tom Arth nine games into this season and news of the school’s interest in Moorhead leaked more than a week ago.

Picked last, Northern Illinois wins MAC title

Quarterback Rocky Lombardi ran for three touchdowns and Jay Ducker ran for 146 yards on 29 carries to power Northern Illinois to a 41-23 victory over Kent State in the Mid-American Conference title game in Detroit. It is the Huskies’ (9-4) sixth MAC title in the last 11 years and first since 2018 when it beat Buffalo. Kent State (7-6) was shooting for its first conference championship since winning it in 1972. “This is historic,” said Huskies coach Thomas Hammock whose team was predicted to finish in last place this year after going 0-6 in 2020. “I don’t think any team has gone winless the year before and won a championship. When everybody said we would finish last, all I told our team was we are the best team in the MAC until proven otherwise. Obviously, they didn’t prove us otherwise.” . . . Presbyterian coach Kevin Kelley, known for not punting, has resigned after going 2-9 in his first season coaching college football. Kelley left for personal reasons, the school said in a statement. He was hired last April and gained attention for his unorthodox strategy that included onside kicks after made scores and not punting on fourth down Kelley’s team punted 13 times in 11 games this season. Kelley said in a statement on social media that he left “to pursue other football interests. He was hired last April after years of being a high school coach in Arkansas. The Blue Hose, who lost their last nine games this fall, led the FCS with 414 yards passing per game and were third nationally with 517 yards a game in total offense . . . Cam Humphrey threw three touchdown passes, including a pair to Samuel Akem in the second half, and No. 6 seed Montana beat Eastern Washington, 50-35, on Friday night in the second round of the FCS playoffs in Missoula, Mont. Montana (10-2), a two-time FCS champion making its record 25th playoff appearance, advances to its 14th quarterfinals and second in the last three years. Eastern Washington’s Eric Barriere completed 47 of 80 passes for 530 yards and five touchdowns. He also had a fumble — that turned into a Montana touchdown and gave the Grizzlies a three-score lead late in the third quarter — and an interception, a 55-yard pick-6 by Justin Ford that made it 57-35 with 2:08 to play.

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