MORGANTOWN. W.Va. — The College Football Playoff overlords publicly unveiled their selection committee on Wednesday, and as has been surmised for several weeks, West Virginia athletics director Oliver Luck made the roster.
This is the crew that bids bye-bye to the BCS but certainly not farewell to the bluster that bombards college football’s champion-makers each fall. There’s always a team left feeling snubbed, SEC haters jeering out of envy, and mid-majors convinced their underdog program warrants a shot. While a semifinal playoff system lends more legitimacy to the process, it won’t muffle the outcry from the never-satisfied crowd who wants an eight- or 16-team bracket.
Whereas the NCAA men’s basketball committee has 10 members tasked with choosing the best 68 teams, football’s panel requires 13 members to pick only the top four. (Why 13? “Because it was the right number,” said CFP chief Bill Hancock.) The committee’s makeup reveals a venn diagram of intriguing plot lines for conspiracy-minded fans to scrutinize: five power-conference ADs, four ex-coaches, 10 former players, six ex-quarterbacks, two lawyers, three people with Notre Dame ties and one longtime USA Today beat writer (presumably to take meeting notes).
And, somewhat infamously, a woman who once knew the whereabouts of the White House hide-a-key.
At 53, Luck is the youngest committee member, and owns the shortest tenure as an AD, though his professional life includes stints on sports commissions and NFL Europe. You might wonder, when debating the merits of national semifinal participants, how persuasive Luck will be amid a room that includes the imperious Barry Alvarez, not to mention a woman who once drove U.S. foreign policy, Condoleezza Rice. But that’s OK, because functional committees require a mix of symbiotic personalities. Not everybody can have a domineering personality or waterboarding experience.
Along its path of setting up No. 1-vs.-4 and No. 2-vs.-3 matchups, the committee plans to debut its poll around Week 6 and update its “standings” every two weeks thereafter. This is an obvious nod to the current unveiling of the BCS rankings—oh, how college football clings to the sentimental traditions that have been tweaked repeatedly over the past 15 years.
If we’re to believe Wednesday’s comments, members won’t just be eyeballing won-loss records and glancing at strength-of-schedule metrics—they’ll also be watching more game cut-ups than your alma mater’s defensive coordinator. They’ll be hashing out their thoughts, data and scouting reports during face-to-face meetings throughout the second half of next season, and they’ll be doing this “side job” pro bono (once again proving college athletics ain’t about the money).
From the more than 100 committee nominees, here’s a rundown of the humble servants who’ll shape the postseason in 2014:
Jeff Long: The Arkansas athletics director hired Bret Bielema away from the Wisconsin program overseen by fellow panelist Alvarez, who promptly said no one in Madison was sad to see Bielema go. That might make for awkward meetings, but then, Long dealt with the hijinks of Bobby Petrino during his road-rash, philandering phase, so the man has a tolerance for awkward.
Barry Alvarez: Because of unavoidable criticism, many dignitaries thought serving on this committee would be like pairing a migraine with an aneurysm. But with an autobiography titled “Don’t Flinch,” Alvarez wasn’t the type to run scared.
Tom Osborne: He will make sound, unilateral and unchallenged decisions on the final four by silently nodding toward teams on the dry-erase board.
Archie Manning: Second-most beloved quarterback in Ole Miss history would have had better stats if forward passes were legal when he played.
Oliver Luck: “I would prefer not to comment on that,” Luck replied Wednesday when asked whether he had been approached about the Texas AD post. Whether it’s the playoff implications of WVU or Texas or any Big 12 team being discussed next season, Luck must recuse himself. (This has been a weak point in the past.)
Pat Haden: Jerked Lane Kiffin off a bus to fire him. That’s all the résumé I need to see,
Condoleezza Rice: Asked about college football’s need for a playoff, she recalled the infamous Notre Dame-Michigan State tie of 1966. Asked about Iraq acquiring WMDs around 2001, she said “Oh, that was ages ago.”
Mike Tranghese: After decades of trying to get Catholic universities and state schools to play nice in the Big East, he’ll gleefully volunteer to answer angry phone calls from fans of left-behind team No. 5.
Tyrone Willingham: Smart guy, but a three-year panel appointment matches his entire failed tenure at Notre Dame. At least if his playoff ballot is right 23 percent of the time, that will be an improvement over his winning percentage at Washington.
Tom Jernstedt: He’s a former NCAA executive vice president, which means Jay Bilas likely blames him for the exploitation of student-athletes, potato chip bags being half-full and rogue ocean waves.
Dan Radakovich: Clemson’s AD has been a whiz at fundraising and facility upgrades, but his inability to follow NCAA investigatory protocol left Georgia Tech’s football program facing weightier sanctions.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Mike Gould: He has more than 3,000 hours flying supersonic planes, though at age 60 he prefers to drive in the left lane with his blinker flashing.
Steve Wieberg: A top-level USA Today sportswriter for more than three decades who’s now working in public affairs at the Kansas City Public Library. (From newspapers to book rentals, this guy is taking an occupational sojourn through dying industries.)