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Originally published Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 8:00 PM

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Willingham, Rice eager for challenge of playoff committee

Ex-Washington football coach, former secretary of state named to 13-member panel to choose four college semifinalists, starting in 2014.


Seattle Times staff reporter

Committee members

Jeff Long, Arkansas athletic director, committee chairman

Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin AD and former coach

Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, former superintendent of U.S. Air Force Academy

Pat Haden, USC AD

Tom Jernstedt, former NCAA executive vice president

Oliver Luck, West Virginia AD

Archie Manning, former Ole Miss and NFL quarterback

Tom Osborne, former Nebraska head coach and AD

Dan Radakovich, Clemson AD

Condoleezza Rice, Stanford professor, former Stanford and provost and U.S. Secretary of State

Mike Tranghese, former Big East commissioner

Steve Wieberg, former college football reporter, USA Today

Tyrone Willingham, former Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington head coach

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Thirteen members of the new College Football Playoff committee were officially unveiled Wednesday for the four-team format that begins in 2014, and they’re undoubtedly going to experience two things: an extensive time commitment, and no shortage of second-guessing.

The committee, chaired by Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, is heavy on administrators and has three former longtime head coaches. But it also includes Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, former superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and now a Stanford professor.

Rice, whose candidacy was advanced by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, scoffed at the inevitable heat the committee will take when it has to choose the last team into the playoff.

“I think I’ve experienced plenty of heat in my life,” she said on a national teleconference.

This season marks the 16th and final year of the Bowl Championship Series. Next season, committee members will have perhaps five meetings during the season in Dallas, ranking teams from 1-25 using whatever criteria they wish, and the consensus will be revealed. Athletic directors won’t represent conferences, but the game as a whole.

Members will serve for varying lengths, setting up a rotation of service similar to that of the NCAA basketball committee.

“I now have a legitimate excuse for the four side-by-side television sets that I’ve tuned into college football for the past 15 years,” joked Tom Jernstedt, former NCAA vice president who had a key part in running the NCAA basketball tournament for decades.

The committee includes former Washington coach Tyrone Willingham, who said, “When I was approached, this was such a great opportunity, such a great step for college football, you couldn’t say no, regardless of how much time you thought it would be. I was so excited and honored, if it was taking 24 hours a day, I think I’d still move in the same direction.”

The inclusion of Rice has brought some criticism. But she pointed to a long-held interest in the game and noted that when she was provost at Stanford, “football reported to me.” She also had a key hand in hiring Willingham at the school and was on the committee that named Denny Green in 1988.

“I’m a student of the game, and I believe I’ll work very, very hard and review as much film as I possibly can to make good judgments,” she said. “I don’t feel I’m carrying a banner for anyone other than those who love college football. This (endeavor) is trying to get the college football playoff right.”

Strength of schedule, long a point of debate in the game, will be a key part of the process. Says Bill Hancock, executive director of the CFP, “I believe we’ll look back in three, five or seven years and say, look what it’s done to enhance nonconference scheduling.”

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com



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