The objections centered around several subjects. One was the size of the playoff field; Phillips, for example, said recently he would only support an expansion to eight teams, and he was not in favor of any alterations until the N.C.A.A. finishes rewriting its constitution, which could happen next week. Other worries were related to how many berths would be guaranteed and what would happen to existing bowls.
In a statement on Monday evening, the Pac-12 said it backed the six “most-discussed” formats, including a system in which the 12 highest-ranked teams would earn playoff slots and another that would award bids to the Power 5 champions, the top Group of 5 champion and six at-large teams. The league also said it was open to proposals for an eight-team format, like one that would include the eight highest-ranked teams.
But there is entrenched opposition to an eight-team approach.
“It is clear none of the six most-discussed expansion models has unanimous consent, with most having considerable opposition, and every conference other than the Pac-12 has indicated that they would be against at least one of the proposed models,” the Pac-12 said.
Sankey, who spoke with reporters more than an hour after Monday’s final meeting broke up, said he found it perturbing that some conferences that beat the drum to expand three years ago were now objecting to a proposal to do just that.
“I genuinely never assumed this would just be a rubber stamp, but I also know that when issues are identified, there has to be a resolve to work to solutions and there have to be solutions identified,” said Sankey, who would not identify which commissioners he was speaking about.
He also said that if the negotiations went back to the start, there would be no guarantee that the SEC would be willing to make whatever concessions it was willing to make now.
Any optimism for change was built around the enormous financial windfall that a larger tournament would deliver to the leagues. There are also substantial frustrations with the current system, which debuted in the 2014 season and replaced the Bowl Championship Series.