The Committee To Pick Playoff Teams

Bill Hancock

Everyone should have been pleased with the announcement that Bill Hancock, who has headed up the BCS, is the main man for the College Football Playoff system that will begin at the end of the 2014 season. The determination that a committee will choose the four participating teams was met with as much glee as for the job the NCAA Men's Basketball Selection Committee does. That's "Not much."



From an Alabama standpoint, a committee is probably not a bad thing. Presumably the final committee – expected to consist of 15 – will be made up of people who know something about college football, which means they will have some prejudice about the best teams. The best news is that the computers have been retired. If there were working parameters, only one computer would be needed anyway. Well, maybe two to make sure the right information was inputted.

All across America in recent weeks, sports reporters have been making known their judgments on how the committee should be formulated. In great part, that has meant excluding various groups; others have said the committee should be made up primarily of those from a specific group.

This recommendation – which we will modestly call The Only Thing You Need To Know About Forming The College Football Playoff Team Selection Committee – is almost all inclusive, but also will exclude some with reason.

When I was in the seventh grade, our teacher, Mrs. Floyd, decided to give the class a practical lesson in civics. We nominated classmates for various offices. My friend, Roger, nominated me for something. I asked Mrs. Floyd if it was all right to vote for yourself, because that seemed lacking in humility. She said anyone running for office should think of himself or herself as most qualified and should vote accordingly.

We wrote down our choices, folded the sheets, and then turned them in for Mrs. Floyd to count. I noticed that she would open a slip, then put it to the right. She put one slip on the left, the other 25 or so on the right. And then she announced that Carol had been elected.

Later I confronted Roger. I had voted for myself and yet I got only one vote. He had nominated me, but didn't vote for me! He explained that he didn't know that Carol was going to be nominated and he decided she would be better.

Why do I bring this up? Because I feel most qualified to be chairman of the selection committee. So we've got that out of the way. Only 14 to go.

I am going to eliminate a few.

Any sports reporter or broadcaster who proudly announced that he would or that he had voted for Manti Te'o for any one of the top three spots on the Heisman Trophy ballot doesn't know enough about football to be on my committee. Sorry, Coach Holtz.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney said prior to last year's Alabama-Michigan game, in which the Tide coasted to a 41-14 win, that he wasn't particularly impressed with Alabama. I Googled to see if he had admitted that he was stupid, and couldn't find anything. There is no room for dolts, particularly if they are not contrite. Delaney is out.

Many think former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer was the brain behind the BCS and should be a member of the committee. Not while I'm chairman. Elephants have long memories.

What about someone from the National Football Foundation? Only if someone from the National Football Foundation can explain why Derrick Thomas is not in its Hall of Fame.

So whom do we choose?

There is a hue and cry to have retirees make up the committee. Retired coaches, retired sports reporters, retired athletics directors and conference commissioners. It's my feeling that you wouldn't get a group of retired insurance salesmen to work up the new actuary tables. Sportswriters I know spend their Saturdays in retirement on the golf course, fishing, traveling, etc. In short, not worrying about college football games.

That does not mean the committee could not have retirees, but they would have to be convincing that they take an abiding interest in college football. That doesn't mean just going to the games of their old team.

We gave brief consideration to putting recently retired football coach Mike Price on the committee and making him in charge of refreshments.

One recommendation has been for active head coaches to make up the majority of the committee. First of all, who would want a man coaching their football team who had time for this chore? Beyond that, I know a little something about coaches' polls.

When I was in the sports information office at Alabama, Coach Paul Bryant was one of the voters in the Coaches' Poll conducted by United Press International. Charley Thornton and I would get to the office early Sunday mornings after games. At some point one of us would say, "Did you do the poll, or do you want me to do it?" It was then a quick look at the paper for all the Saturday results, consulting our poll from the previous week, and typing it up to phone it in. We ran it by Coach Bryant before calling it in, but I don't recall him having much interest in it.

In those days, we received a bowl bonus – a month's pay if the football team went to a bowl. (Which it did every year, thank goodness; that $1,500 or so I was making came in handy.) I suspect sports information types still do the polls for their bosses, and at Alabama, at least, it appears the bonus situation is alive and well. That doesn't really make for objectivity and I would be reluctant to include an active coach, other than Nick Saban, who makes the list.

Everyone wants Grant Teaff to be on the selection committee. He retired as a coach (best known at Baylor) and has been executive director of the American Football Coaches Association since 1993. Teaff's winning percentage as a coach was 52.9 (170-151-9). Just by comparison, Dennis Franchione has a 197-115-2 record, 63.1 per cent. But we'll take Teaff. We won't take Fran because things might get tough and he'd be out the door.

So we're up to three.

By the way, even if the Coaches' Poll continues, our committee will not consider it in the selection process.

I'll admit my committee would be heavy on people from journalism.

Pete Fiutak of College Football News (CFN.com) not only knows more about virtually every college football team than anyone I know, he also understands what is important in being a good football team. He sees strengths and weaknesses, and I don't know of anyone who would question his expertise.

Talk radio would seem an unlikely place to find a college football expert, but there is one. Listen to Jack Arute on Sirius radio and you'll hear a man who knows the details of college football, but doesn't let those details impede his understanding of the big picture. Some others in talk radio aren't bad, but they aren't good enough for this committee.

Ralph Russo is the college football editor of the Associated Press. (If you want his cell phone number, you can get it from the White House.) Although the AP pulled its poll out of the BCS equation, Russo doesn't vote. He just counts the votes. And he is a true national expert on college football.

It is likely that many media entities would not allow their employees to participate in the selection process, but that would be stupid and – for the moment – we are not considering that impediment.

ESPN has to be represented, and there is one clear choice. They have a lot of people talking, but the one who is always making sense is Mark May.

Jeff Husvar is going to be the main man at the new Fox 1 sports network. He is very on top of the college football scene, even living in California for many years, and very smart.

There is no inclination to reach for the game broadcasters, much as I respect some of them for their knowledge. If one was going to be chosen it would probably be Todd Blackledge. CBS gets left out. Gary Danielson is as good as anyone at quickly analyzing a play, but I have trouble breathing in overwhelming arrogance and couldn't have him in the room with me.

Think I'm not going to have a woman on the committee? Wrong. I choose Selena Roberts, formerly of Sports Illustrated and the New York Times. I know with Roberts on the committee we'll have a staunch opponent of selecting a team with a bought quarterback.

And just to show how open minded I am, I'm going to take another woman, and also fill a spot that should be filled by the nation's newspaper, USA Today. Laken Litman has just left 'BAMA Magazine/BamaMag.com for USA Today. We know that she can do the job and she makes the committee.

Sticking with women...I have been to many, many, many bowl games, and the most efficient person I have ever seen at any of them is Gina Chappin, director of media for the Rose Bowl Game. She's on.

From the Pacific Northwest, we select Jay Torrell, who lives college football every day as the director of print creative for all the Scout.com publications across the country.. It helps that he signs all his notes to me, "Roll Tide!" even though he's a Washington Huskies fan.

George Lapides of Memphis refuses to stop working. He was an outstanding newspaper sports editor and has continued with radio and television gigs. He has known more college head coaches on a personal basis than anyone I know. And no matter what city the committee decides to meet, George will know the best restaurant.

There would be a couple you might not know. Chuck Rounsaville would be on the committee. He's the publisher of Ole Miss Spirit. I have been on many, many, many committees in my life, and it is a pleasure to be on one with Chuck, who knows how to keep people on point and keep efficiency high.

Al Under (not even his real name) is known to almost no one. For many, many years he has been able to persuade poll voters because he has an extraordinary grasp of college football.. Now that he is retired, he watches football as often as it is available. Al will say he's just going to watch a few minutes of that Hawaii game that comes on after the late, late game from the West Coast, but he watches until the bitter end. And then is up bright and early to see if there were any highlights he didn't see on Saturday.

So that's got it. I don't think we left off anyone that mattered.

There is Phil Fulmer, Tim Lewis, and ... oh, wait. I'm sorry. That's my "Back-Stabbers Hall of Fame" list.

From the ranks of college president, we considered Gordon Gee. He would understand why we don't have any athletics directors on the committee. He's eliminated that position at two universities, Vanderbilt and now Ohio State.

How about someone from the NCAA offices in Indianapolis? Yeah, right. That's a great model of doing things the right way.

You can thank me later.

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