College Football Playoffs Have Finally Arrived (Say Conference Commissioners)

A College Football Playoff (And Annual Games Like Stanford-Oklahoma State) Is a Few Mere Approvals Away From Being Official

Finally! After long, long last college football appears to have a playoff system ready and waiting to name a champion once 2014 rolls around. As agreed upon by the conference commissioners, the four-team model will pit the top four schools against one another, irregardless of league affiliation. The BCS is dead, the sites will rotate amongst the current larger bowl spots (plus a few, we assume), and the title game will be shopped out to cities for bidding on what will quickly become the country’s second-largest sporting event (behind only the Super Bowl).

With this basic framework in place, all the commissioners need to do is head on back to their conference presidents and get a big ‘APPROVED’ stamp on the proposal. Unless the Big Ten suddenly sees a stodgy, traditionalist mutiny, this only appears to be a formality. There’s still another issue, however, which will take a good deal of time to address (luckily, we have a few seasons to work it all out): How will the participants be chosen?

Talks in Chicago gathered several ideas, including a football-equivalent of the RPI (Sagarin rankings!), strength of schedule and conference championship components, and a selection committee. Together, this mashup of methods will produce our four teams, and because of the human element (yes, I’m a proponent), I’d say we’ll end up with the “right” four teams far more often than not. That is, if they construct the committee correctly.

Correctly believing we’re down to five major conferences (no need to list them out — you know who they are), five lesser conferences (the WAC will be gone by the time this all comes about) and Notre Dame, it means they’ll be controlling this process and the money it produces. That control could mean a highly-unequal revenue split (very likely), and/or a larger block of representation on the playoff participant committee. Late yesterday, Frank the Tank actually gave readers a smart list of some of the items to pursue and avoid, when it comes to a committee. Per the article:

  • Appoint one representative from each FBS conference to the committee along with having a pool of 10 or so “at-large” representatives.  This would make the committee compact enough that there can be in-depth discussions among its members, but large enough to mitigate the vote of a representative that has eaten too many paint chips.
  • Do not allow committee members that have a conflict of interest (e.g. an SEC representative discussing an SEC school) to discuss or vote on the applicable school.
  • Similar what the NCAA Tournament does, allow the mainstream media to participate in an extensive mock session of the selection process so that the public can understand what exactly happens in the war room.
  • Make all data that the selection committee will use in the selection process, such as computer rankings and strength of schedule calculations, available to the public every week throughout the season.

All makes sense? It should. Transparency and at least an honest attempt at fairness are imperative here, since people are incredibly skeptical that the governing body involved with the ultra-corrupt, flawed BCS can suddenly run something less corrupt and flawed. Personally, I think the one-rep per conference method is the only fool-proof way to go, with Notre Dame either folded into the Big East’s bloc or only included on a rotating basis with other non-power members. I’m also hesitant to name an executive in charge of the proceedings, even if it’s on an NCAA tournament-like yearly rotation. With only four spots instead of 68, there’s too much that can happen in terms of consensus-building and factions to give any one league another voter to sway the room.

We’ll obviously have more as the system is completely ironed out, but all college football fans are at least somewhat pleased to see a playoff materialize at long last. And the best news: the ACC will have a seat at the table, and a rather large one at that. For those following along, you’ll notice ACC commish John Swofford was very vocal with the media, and I expect that to continue as he shapes opinion and momentum in his league’s favor (or at least attempts to).

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