There Have To Be Concerns About CFP Committee

There’s a little premature talk about the College Football Playoff this week because of the action of USC Athletics Director Pat Haden last week. Although there is no reason to believe that Haden is not one of the more qualified members of the CFB selection committee, one of the most intelligent, and by all accounts an honorable man, he has put the perception of the committee into question.

Actually, it’s a question that has been on the minds of many for months. When the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was disbanded at the conclusion of last year and replaced with the College Football Playoff (CFB), it was deemed that the man who had run the BCS should also run the CFB.

My admiration for Bill Hancock – that man – is as high as it gets. For one thing, the BCS got it right every year, picking the two best teams to play for the national championship. The “formula” was the examination of a couple of polls (Coaches and Harris after the Associated Press pulled out) and a handful of mysterious computer programs which sometimes put the final result in jeopardy. Fortunately, more weight was given to people than to people running computers.

Bill Hancock passed the big test when Alabama – which had lost to LSU in regular season play in 2011 and had not won even its division in the Southeastern Conference – nevertheless made it back to the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans. Bama’s 21-0 win over LSU burst the balloons of all thsoe proclaiming the Crimson Tide had not earned its berth.

When Hancock was selected to run the CFB, my first thought was “thank goodness,” and I still believe that. His job was to determine how the best four teams would be selected for the new playoff. (His job was a lot more than that, of course – determining the way those games would be played, for instance, and coming up with the use of existing bowl games to reach a final game.)

If Hancock had said, “I’ll handle this,” and made himself a one-man selection committee, I would not have had a problem. I would have been surprised, but I would not have had any reservation that the job would be done well.

If he had said the four teams would be selected the same way the two teams had been selected in the BCS era, I would have considered that a reasonable plan.

I would have been most happy if he had elected to go into the world of college football and find a group of people who understand the game and who would work as full time paid employees throughout the season doing nothing else but discecting the teams and the games.

He didn’t do that. Instead, he found a group of people do volunteer to do the job. That’s okay to a point, but some of these people have very important real jobs.

I know, I know. There’s a philosophy that if you need a job done, find a busy person to do it.

But how many games do you suspect Pat Haden was interested in last weekend when USC defeated Stanford and Haden earned a $25,000 fine for what appeared to be his attempt to coerce officials in the game?

That, of course, is an extreme example of a committee member having tunnel vision rather than the broad view that the committee must exhibit.

A case can be made that anything that pushes Hancock to make a change in the way the four teams (and other teams for other bowls) are selected is a good thing.

True, the committee won’t reveal its first “poll” until late October, but those members have a lot of work to do. And I can’t help but wonder if you are the president of a university (or the football coach or the volleyball coach) if you want your athletics director spending part of each work week as a member of this committee?

There are five active athletics directors on the committee. Haden and Barry Alvarez of Wisconsin are the best known ADs, but also on the committee are Clemson, West Virginia, and Arkansas athletics directors.

In fact, the Arkansas athletics director is the chairman/spokesman for the committee in its first year.

I suspect if you asked a group of football fans who are not Arkansas fans who the AD at Arkansas is, you would get more answering Frank Broyles than Jeff Long.

Tom Jernstedt, a former NCAA big wig who set up the NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee, is on this committee. Has anyone noticed that most years the basketball selection committee gets more questions about the teams it leaves out than the ones it puts in to a 68-team playoff?

You know that Archie Manning knows football, and I can’t help believe he’s going to be more interested in watching games on Sunday than he’s going to be in studying games from Saturday.

This is not really to disparage any of the members of the committee, but we do suggest it was a bad idea.

And if it had to be a committee, we can see no reason to cut it off at 13. The AP poll gets it right in part because it has a large, diverse voting pool. A handful of members cannot form an issue-driven clique.

Our feeling has been that if the season plays out with four obvious selections – for instance undefeated conference champions in four of the five power leagues – the committee will get it right, just as any knowledgeable football fan would. But if there are some messy issues, the committee will make a bigger mess of it.

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