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Objectivity is committee talking point

4/3/2014

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- By choosing a selection committee to pick four teams for the new College Football Playoff that debuts this coming season, the sport’s power brokers chose subjectivity over something more concrete and objective like the former Bowl Championship Series formula, which had a controversial existence during the BCS era.

But as the College Football Playoff’s selection committee wrapped up two days of meetings at the Gaylord Texan on Thursday, it’s clear that objectivity is a sticking point as the college football season draws closer.

Selection committee chairman Jeff Long, the Arkansas athletics director, and College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said a recommendation on how selection committee members will be recused from discussing teams under consideration for the playoff because of past or present affiliations with universities and conferences will be forwarded to the playoff’s management committee, which includes commissioners of the 10 FBS football conferences and Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick. The management committee is expected to consider the proposal during a meeting in the Dallas area later this month.

“I wouldn’t call it sticky,” Hancock said. “It’s a deliberate and thoughtful [discussion].”

The football selection committee’s recusal policy is expected to be similar to the one used by the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball committees, which determine seeding and at-large bids for the NCAA tournaments.

It’s clear the football committee is trying to be as objective as possible. And it might possibly be the most debated aspect of the committee, other than what four teams it ultimately chooses for the four-team playoff. The public’s perception of the committee members’ “perceived” biases or ties to other schools will be fodder for fan bases and scrutinized by message board musclemen all season long.

Will the selection committee take into consideration any schools that a member might have tried to work at, but was not hired?

“No,” Long said. “And we didn’t take into consideration if their mother was born in that state that has a flagship institution.”

Long might have thought that was a ridiculous question, but will committee members be allowed to vote on schools where family members graduated from or attended?

And how exactly will committee members recuse themselves from discussions on certain teams because of potential conflicts of interest. For instance, does Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich recuse himself when the committee discusses ACC teams? Will West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck be allowed to discuss Stanford, where his son went to school? Will Tyrone Willingham be permitted to weigh whether Stanford, Washington and Notre Dame, schools where he once coached, deserve to be included in the playoff?

What about former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, who some could argue won’t be favorable toward ACC schools since that league poached several schools that led to the breakup of his old league?

Maybe, maybe not. But the perception is there. And perception is reality.

The possibilities are fascinating, endless and will be especially controversial.

The selection committee isn’t scheduled to meet again until August, according to Hancock. Obviously, a lot of decisions have to be made in the next few months. Among them are when and how often the committee will release a top 25 poll, which is designed to give fans an idea of where teams stand in the committee’s eyes heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

It doesn’t seem likely that the 13 committee members will travel to Dallas every week, so expect the rankings every other week. That probably won't go over well with college football fans and media either.