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Big Ten Commissioner Weighs In On Automatic Qualifiers for Playoff Expansion

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren did not hold back when he gave his opinion on automatic qualifiers for playoff expansion, telling College Sports on SiriusXM that he's "a big believer that there should be automatic qualifiers for the power five conferences."

He went on to highlight how there are current contracts with bowl sponsors in place, and "we need to be mindful of treating our bowl partners with the class and respect that they deserve."  

Bob Bowlsby (Big 12 commissioner), Greg Sankey (SEC commissioner), Craig Thompson (Mountain West commissioner) and Jack Swarbrick (Notre Dame athletic director) proposed the 12-team playoff model in June, which would guarantee spots to the six highest-ranked conference champions as well as at-large bids to the next six highest-ranked teams.

Since then, the committee has continued to deliberate it, delaying its decision again on Wednesday. The main obstacle still exists: there is no unanimous consensus on a specific format. Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger reported that they continued to argue over the number of teams (eight vs. 12) as well as the role of automatic qualifiers (no AQs vs. some AQs vs. AQs for Power 5 champions).

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Sankey said he was against an eight-team playoff with automatic qualifiers while Bowlsby said, "I think 12 is good for college football." However, Thompson said after the meeting that an eight-team model is still alive.

Given the extent of deliberation, people wonder whether or not there have been conversations of abandoning the idea all together. A source told Dellenger "there was a sense of shutting down talks" on Wednesday. 

Bowlsby went on to tell Sirius, "I think there were some in the room perhaps that were ready to say ‘Let’s just leave it at four and move on.’”

The next round of talks are scheduled for January 2022, and Warren told SiriusXM that he remains "confident that we'll come together."

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