But now college football’s means for determining a national champ is changing. Starting next year a four-team playoff will finally come to college football. Yesterday the men (and woman) tabbed to handle the selection of playoff teams was officially announced.
There are ex-coaches and sitting ADs on the panel. A former Air Force general and a former Secretary of State are on the committee as well. One ex-sportswriter is in the group. Of the 13 members, ten played college football.
For now… all’s good. Anyone asking a question about the exclusive club will be painted as a grumbler. Question the inclusion of Condoleezza Rice for any reason and you’ll be labeled as a knuckle-dragging cave man (even if you suggest that there are more qualified women out there).
So be it. We’ll play along. To quote Rip Torn from “Men In Black,” the following group is the best of the best of the best. Their belonging on the committee is self-evident:
Chairman Jeff Long (current Arkansas athletic director)
Barry Alvarez (current Wisconsin athletic director and former head coach)
Lt. General Mike C. Gould (retired Air Force general and former superintendent at the Air Force Academy)
Pat Haden (current Southern Cal athletic director)
Oliver Luck (current West Virginia athletic director)
Tom Jernstedt (former supervisor of the NCAA’s board of directors)
Archie Manning (member of the College Football Hall of Fame)
Tom Osborne (former Nebraska athletic director and former head coach)
Dan Radakovic (current Clemson athletic director)
Condoleezza Rice (former Secretary of State, former National Security Adviser, and former provost at Stanford)
Mike Tranghese (former Big East Conference commissioner)
Steve Wieberg (former college football writer)
Tyrone Willingham (former head football coach)
Thumbs up. Love it. Geniuses, one and all.
But what do they think about the Southeastern Conference?
You see, in the end, that’s all most of you are going to care about. If next year, your favorite SEC school doesn’t make the playoff field despite being ranked inside the top four or five in the national polls, you will lose your ever-lovin’ mind. You know it. I know it.
SEC fans and the Southern media (of which I’m a part) believe the Southeastern Conference to be the King of the Football Conferences. Whether it’s national championships, stadium size, the number of NFL draftees cranked out, or the league’s overall year-in, year-out bowl record, the SEC is at the top of the ladder. The BCS — with its computers and its voters — almost always took a pro-Dixie view of the football landscape, too. With the exception of Auburn in 2004, the benefit of the doubt was usually awarded to the SEC.
So what about this new group of 13 who’ll be selecting (from behind closed doors) four teams to take part in the College Football Playoff?
It was initially believed that people on the committee would have to remove themselves from the room when their school or their league came up for conversation. But would Archie Manning be booted when any SEC team came up? Or just when Ole Miss came up?
What about a guy like Tyrone Willingham? He played and then began his coaching career at Michigan State. Then he coached at Central Michigan, NC State, and Rice as an assistant. He was then a head coach at Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington. Just who the hell’s resume could Willingham discuss?
For kicks, let’s play around and say that Alabama, Oregon and Florida State have already been tabbed for the first playoff in January, 2015. In our scenario, the fourth slot would come down to either South Carolina or Ohio State.
For now let’s assume that Arkansas AD Jeff Long — the chairman of the committee — and Manning would be shown the door due to their SEC ties. Also gone would be Barry Alvarez and Tom Osborne because of their Big Ten ties.
That would leave nine people to debate the merits of South Carolina from the rough-and-tumble SEC and Ohio State from the top-heavy Big Ten. Those nine folks would be: Gould, Haden, Luck, Jernstedt, Radakovic, Rice, Tranghese, Wieberg and Willingham.
Is that the brain trust you’d want making the final selection between the Gamecocks and Buckeyes?
Would that group have any interest in making sure the playoff involved four teams from four different conferences?
Would the Ohio State brand — one of the biggest in college football — get the nod over a South Carolina program that until three years ago had never even won 11 games in a season?
Would there be any plain ol’ SEC fatigue among those remaining panelists?
The bottom line on the committee is actually pretty easy to write: It’s a fine panel right up until an SEC school gets the shaft. At that point, you’d better believe a whole bunch of folks below the Mason-Dixon line will be shouting, “Why the heck is Rice on that panel and just who the hell are Gould, Jernstedt and Wieberg?”
Mark it down.