College football playoff: Can Bill Hancock solve this puzzle?
As BCS executive director tries to find consensus on the new college football playoff, even the composition of the selection committee is a burning question.
Seattle Times college football reporter
A call the other day to BCS executive director Bill Hancock drew this advisory from a receptionist:
"He's in rehab right now."
Aha. The stream of brickbats heaved in the direction of the BCS finally drove the man to substance abuse.
Actually, no. Hancock, a key figure in the framework of the first college football playoff a year from now, was recovering from a broken femur suffered in a recent fall.
In another life, Hancock was pivotal in helping coordinate Seattle's hosting of basketball regionals as director of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Then he moved on to the BCS, and now he's trying to herd conference commissioners into consensus as executive director of college football's new toy, the playoff.
Before you even ask the question, we'll give you Hancock's answer: "We don't know yet."
They don't know yet about the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the composition of the all-important selection committee. They don't know the size of it — though the likely range is 12 to 20 — they don't know exactly when it will be determined, and they don't know what metrics might figure into the choosing of teams.
"But I'd say sometime this fall," Hancock said, referring to committee membership.
It's Hancock's take that the potential weight on committee members might be overstated.
"I don't subscribe to the pressure being so great," he said, "that they'll have to go into the witness-protection program."
Maybe not. But I'd remind him there are places where 90,000 people attend spring games and there are wackos sufficiently off-center to poison the trees at Toomer's Corner at Auburn.
If I'm setting up this committee, I'm inflating it toward the high side, maybe 20, so as to minimize the effect of any one person.
You think of the 10-member NCAA basketball committee. Its decisions are relatively pat and — aside from parsing the last few bubble spots — usually not of meaningful controversy.
It picks the No. 1 seeds, weeds out the pretenders from the 37 at-large teams, and braces for the blowback. That typically goes away pretty quickly, once the reality sets in that just about everybody that deserves it has a chance.
But football? Do you want to be the guy who breaks the news to Louisiana State that, sorry, Oregon finished one vote ahead of you for fourth?
"I think I know the scrutiny the selection committee will be under," says Karl Benson, commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference.
Benson was Western Athletic Conference commish from 2002 to 2006, when he was on the NCAA basketball committee. That was when Twitter didn't exist, Facebook wasn't as pervasive and "my e-mail address wasn't as accessible as email addresses today. It's going to be very complicated, and yet there's going to have to be transparency."
Chances are, the committee will consist of a combination of folks like athletic directors, ex-coaches and possibly retired media people.
The prospect of involvement by that last segment brought an "Oh, hell, no," the other day from Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. Yeah, Bob, like the coaches have always been a paragon of reason in their poll.
"Generally, we want people who know the game," said Hancock. "Certainly, people of high integrity, and people who have the courage to make tough decisions."
And people with time. This won't be an endeavor for those who golf on Saturday and check out SportsCenter highlights that night.
"There's going to be a very, very high level of expectation," Benson said.
There will have to be, to negotiate the inevitable debates between the Nos. 4 and 5 teams, the cutoff for the four-team playoff. Think Oregon-Kansas State last season, or in 2010, the trio of Stanford-Wisconsin-Ohio State locked up at 11-1 after the regular season and ranked 4-5-6.
I asked Hancock if he could envision each committee member being responsible for revealing his ballot.
"The basketball committee doesn't do that," he said. "To whatever extent we use the basketball-committee model, we would follow that. But we haven't decided."
Each season's two semifinal games will rotate among the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange, Cotton and Chick-fil-A bowls. The Sugar and Rose get first call on New Year's Day, 2015, part of annual tripleheaders that day and on New Year's Eve that will feature BCS-level games.
In years two and three, get ready for semifinals on New Year's Eve afternoon and evening. By contrast, last New Year's Eve featured the Music City, Liberty and Sun bowls.
"I believe this playoff will change the nature of New Year's Eve in this country," says Hancock.
If you're tired of the BCS, by all means, party hearty.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-12.
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