ACC's title game contract includes out clause in case CFP expands

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The ACC's football conference championship game contract with the city of Charlotte, which runs through 2030, includes an out clause that accounts for the possibility of a change to the postseason format should conference title games ever be eliminated, commissioner John Swofford told ESPN on Sunday.

While none of the FBS conference commissioners are seriously considering that, they are all willing to at least evaluate the current status of the College Football Playoff, which is wrapping up its fifth season.

Swofford said at this point, he still believes the four-team format works best.

"I think it's reasonable to evaluate it," he said, "but most of the noise is from outside the room, not within the room. I don't think we should have our heads stuck in the sand ... you want to re-evaluate it and see if it's accomplishing what you want it to accomplish, and certainly to this point I think it would appear the answer has been yes."

In April, the conference announced it reached a 10-year agreement with the Charlotte Sports Foundation to keep its football title game at Bank of America Stadium through 2030, which was a 10-year extension of the original deal. While the ACC has been happy with both the playoff and its conference championship game, league officials wanted to have some flexibility in the lengthy contract in case the postseason ever changed.

When asked if he would be willing to give up the ACC title game to expand the playoff, Swofford said, "I can't really answer that because we haven't discussed it around our table."

"Secondly," he said, "you'd have to know, if the playoff expanded, does that mean you go back to 11 regular-season games? Does it mean we're not going to have conference championship games? On the one hand, it's not rocket science. On the other hand, there are significant implications to this if it were to expand."

MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said conference championship games are too important to eliminate.

"I don't think any of us are willing to give up our conference championship games," he said. "They're too important to all of us. They're part and parcel of who we are. It's our identity. We do championships. Winning a conference championship is a big deal. No one is giving that up, so when do you play that first round, and where do you play it? It'd be really tough to try and put that into the bowl system."

While the value of conference championship games has been clear in the eyes of the commissioners, it has been called into question publicly because the Big Ten champion has been left out of the playoff in each of the past two seasons, and the Pac-12 champ hasn't finished in the top four since Oregon in 2014. Ohio State was No. 6 this year behind two-loss Georgia, and in 2017, Alabama was chosen instead of the No. 5 Buckeyes even though the Tide didn't win the SEC.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said he has no intention to relinquish his conference championship game.

"First of all, I think four is the right number," he said. "That underlies it. The SEC championship game was innovative, in many ways is still innovative; people have followed with their own. Every FBS conference now has its own championship game. It's a common sense way in an era of conference expansion to determine a conference champion. It's an incredibly relevant game, high-level competition, and it's important to the SEC."