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Friday, May 2, 2014
UW's Alvarez talks playoff procedures

By Adam Rittenberg

All the chatter about SEC schedule models and stolen crab legs overshadowed some important news about the upcoming College Football Playoff, especially how the selection committee will pick the top four teams. Colleague Brett McMurphy has a helpful playoff Q&A about what came out this week. Two issues generating discussion are the recusal policy and the fact the committee will reveal Top 25 rankings each week beginning in late October.

I caught up with Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, a playoff selection committee member, to discuss some of the particulars.

Barry Alvarez
Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez says strength of schedule will be a major factor for the college football playoff.
On the time commitment for committee members, who will meet in person every Monday and Tuesday from late October through early December: The thing that's nice for me personally is we start meetings on Monday afternoon, and we have a 10 a.m. flight, a two-hour nonstop from [Madison, Wis.] to Dallas. So I leave at 10 a.m. Monday and we're done at 2 [p.m.] on Tuesday, so I spend one night down there. That really works out well.

On the recusal policy: We've taken a lot of that from what they've done in the past on the [NCAA men's basketball selection] committee. I can answer questions about Wisconsin and they can ask me whatever they want, but when it's time to vote, I have to leave the room. I don't have any problem with that. Like Archie [Manning] said, 'I was on the committee at Mississippi to pick the athletic director and football coach, and they're going to name a building after my wife and I.' So he felt like he should be recused from there. We had some discussion about it and when it was all said and done, we felt comfortable.

On the responsibilities for each committee member: Each of us will have two leagues that we're responsible to report on. You use your contacts wherever you are -- in my case, the people I know who are close to specific teams or leagues -- and get information from them. They do the same thing in basketball. It just makes sense. The Big Ten would not be my primary conference. I may be a backup. I know the Big Ten. The ADs that have a league, they watch every game in that league and they could give some helpful information, but they will not be the primary person.

On using rankings to get to the final four: I'm comfortable with it. My thinking is this: You don't want to surprise people. I think it's only fair. These are the teams that are going to be represented in the semifinal games. It's important that people know where they are in our eyes. We're the ones placing them. It's not the Coaches' Poll or the AP. We're also placing teams in the other games [Cotton, Fiesta and Peach bowls in years when those bowls are not hosting semifinal games], so you've got to know what your chances are, that type of thing.

On the criteria for evaluating teams: It's your win-loss record. Did you win a championship? It's strength of schedule, it's common opponents. Those are things that will be considered. We have access to all films -- cutup films, coaches' films -- that we can watch on an iPad. We have a multitude of statistics. We took the top four teams over the last 10 or 15 years and looked at the statistics that were most consistent with the champions. That was very valuable.

On the different schedule models between major conferences: It's not my place to decide what they want to do with their scheduling. That's up to them. We've chosen to go to nine [in the Big Ten], strength of schedule is a factor. If you're not at nine then your nonconference scheduling is important. You take a look at us, we're playing LSU. I think it will be obvious which schools tried to play up and understand that strength of schedule is important. They do so with nonconference games.

On the group's biggest challenges: I feel comfortable with it. We've had very good dialogue. You have a lot of different views. You have people who are intelligent, they're football people. They're comfortable expressing their opinions. I think we'll work through things. We have a number of people who have experience on the basketball committee. That really helps when some of the whys and why-nots come up.