The big story in college football Wednesday was introduction of the new College Football Playoff committee, which is indeed a heavyweight group.
A couple of thoughts, followed by some random comments from some of the 13 members who spoke on a two-hour teleconference, plus Bill Hancock, the executive director of the playoff (who has also been head honcho of the BCS):
— Think about how much hoo-ha is made (and yes, I’m as guilty as anybody) about the bubble in the NCAA basketball tournament. I’m reminded of ESPN’s Jay Bilas, who annually wonders aloud, “Why are we spending so much time on this?” Well, if that debate occupies one show after another – think “Blind Resume” — imagine the conversation that will ensue annually over the fourth and final team into the playoff. The talk here in October of 2013 from committee members is all high-minded and earnest, but there’s going to be a boiling debate in 13 months. Think about trying today to sort out Clemson (No. 3), Ohio State (No. 4), Florida State (No. 5) and even UCLA (No. 9). And how much traction would LSU (No. 6) have, given the SEC’s reputation?
— How the old-line coaches like Barry Alvarez, Tom Osborne and Tyrone Willingham winnow their teams is going to be intriguing. Will they use advance metrics, or simply fall back on the old coaching method of looking at video?
— The controversy over whether coaches actually have an active part in voting in their poll (in the BCS era) takes a new slant. Now the vote of these coaches (Alvarez, Osborne, Willingham) is very meaningful.
Some observations from Hancock and the committee members:
Hancock: “We will not have a single metric such as the RPI (in basketball). Rather, we’ll be using a broad spectrum of data about every team. Just about every football statistic, probably, and then some.” (Hancock says periodic votes will be released – “We want folks to know where they stand” — but individual votes will not be made public.)
Hancock, on the inclusion of Mike Gould and Condoleeza Rice: “Obviously, Condi and Lt. Gen. Gould represent that top element of higher-education administrators. They know and love the game just as much as the other 11 do. Their role in this is central and integral to creating the team. And they’re both good, smart people who have made difficult decisions under scrutiny.”
Tyrone Willingham: “It’s an unbelievable honor, but I also see it as a responsibility to the game of football. I’ve been a walk-on, an assistant, a head coach. It’s a way to give back. It’s about doing what’s best for the game of football and that excites me.”
Archie Manning: “My children played, and I love the game. I want to give back and contribute. I just took it as a real honor. It wasn’t a hard choice.”
Tom Jernstedt (former key figure in running the NCAA basketball tournament): “I’ve kept it very confidential from my basketball friends. I’ve watched far more football games over the years than I have basketball games.”
Mike Tranghese (former Big East commissioner, pressed on why he is on the committee after opposing the concept previously): “The people who are in charge made that decision, not me. It’s not my responsibility any more. I love the sport. It’s the chance to serve with people whom I respect and admire. It’s (the playoff) here, and hopefully I can make a contribution to make it work.”
Tom Osborne, who has voted on the Legends Coaches poll: “They would send out videos of the top six or eight games every week and you’d try to watch as much as you could on TV. I would say I probably spend 8-10 hours looking at those films. I also think the committee is going to be somewhat focused on conferences. So I would think I’d be looking primarily at the Big 12 or Big Ten. Obviously, this is going to be more of an art than a science.”
Jernstedt, relating a familiar method the basketball committee has used to select the last teams in the field and how it could relate to this endeavor: “I can remember any number of NCAA basketball committees, where there would be 6-8 teams left for 4-5 at-large spots. Committee members would say (to those with coaching experience), ‘Who would you rather play and rather not play?’ ’’
Steve Wieberg: “I feel a little bit like Ringo, and there are four Johns and four Georges in the band. But Ringo was a contributor and I plan to be a contributor.”
Condoleeza Rice: “When I was first approached, I said, ‘Tell me what it is you think I can bring to this committee.’ First of all, people thought it was important to have diversity. There’s a reason corporate boards are not all CEOs. Second, they want people to make critical judgments and people who love college football.”
Rice, on the long history of conflict over who’s No. 1: “We’ve been trying to get this right for a long time. I remember being a little girl and watching the Michigan State-Notre Dame game (in 1966), when Ara Parseghian went for the tie (by playing conservatively). Actually, we might have been listening to it on the radio . . . I suspect my father would be awfully glad this playoff system is going to a head-to-head competition. He was always frustrated as a fan that we didn’t have head-to-head competition. That’s going to be good for college football.”