Sports' new most thankless job: College Football Playoff selection committee member

PASADENA, Calif. – The playoff revolution is rolling along smoothly. For now.

College football has killed off the BCS, with the death certificate becoming official around midnight on Jan. 6, 2014. After that it's all playoff, all the time. And hallelujah for that.

In the process, college football has taken back Jan. 1, and annexed Dec. 31 along with it. It was announced here Wednesday that New Year's is once again a festival of bowl games, the way it was before the sport got stupid and screwed up its postseason.

There is a tripleheader planned on Dec. 31, 2014: the Chick-fil-A, Orange and Fiesta Bowls. There will be a second tripleheader on Jan. 1, 2015: the Cotton, Rose and Sugar, with the latter two serving as playoff semifinals.

All that is awesome, meeting with high levels of public approval. And public approval has been hard to come by in recent years for anyone associated with the BCS.

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But here comes the hard part: naming a selection committee.

Any volunteers out there? OK, let's amend that question – any qualified volunteers out there?

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, would you like to be on the first College Football Playoff selection committee?

"No," Foley said. "If asked, I will not serve."

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, what about you?

"No thanks," Swarbrick said.

The power brokers must select smart, capable, diligent, sentient people for what will be the most controversial, scrutinized and largely thankless jobs in the sport. The presumed plan is for a larger committee than what basketball uses (which is nine) deciding on a far smaller pool of teams. Which means there will be a lot of voices that have to be heard from, even after recusing some committee members for potential conflicts of interest.

"The commissioners have their work cut out for them," Foley said. "[Selection committee members] will have a tough job. You're not picking 68 teams. You're picking four.

"Who are those people, how are they accepted by the public – those are the challenges."

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If you want to be on this committee, you're basically submitting to a public proctology exam. Every place you've ever worked, every allegiance you've ever held, every friend you've ever had at another university – all those things will be pored over like the Pentagon Papers. Signs of bias will be concocted out of the thinnest evidence, or outright manufactured out of thin air.

Fans will find your email address and flood your inbox, lobbying for their school. Media members will ask you what your personal top five is every time the new selection committee rankings are unveiled. Coaches of teams left out of the playoff will criticize the committee.

And God forbid the first time Alabama finishes fifth in the playoff rankings and misses the semifinals. Harvey Updyke could be out of jail by then, and he can find where you live, Mr. Committee Member. Guard your trees.

Sounds like a ball of fun, doesn't it?

Despite the obvious issues, those involved in selecting the selectors say business is brisk. Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive said he's heard from several people interested in being on the committee. And BCS/College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock Wednesday opined thusly: "This will be the most prestigious sports committee in the college sports structure."

One man's prestige is another man's unwelcome headache. And as anyone who has been involved in the college football national title structure knows, there figures to be plenty of unsuspected trap doors ahead.

The most abiding characteristic of the BCS was the fact that almost every decision to improve the product and the process carried with it nasty unintended consequences that created even more controversy and distrust. The game's overlords got yet another taste of unintended consequences Wednesday.

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The lousiest of the four uninspired College Football Playoff logo choices suddenly and suspiciously became the runaway leader in fan voting. Turns out someone in Austin, Texas, pumped in 50,251 votes for Logo No. 4 in an attempt to rig the contest. The votes were deleted and order was restored, according to a release from the overlords, but this much was obvious: If a logo contest can spark that sort of insanity, what about the actual playoff itself?

And what about the men tasked with selecting the teams for that playoff?

If there are too many ex-coaches and administrators, the charge will be that the committee is too old and out of touch with the modern game. Or that iconic former coaches have too many loyalties and allegiances (and enemies) to be objective.

If there are too many administrators, the charge will be that they need more "football people." This is a common lament about the basketball selection committee.

Heaven help us if there is a media member, current or former. That man or woman has no shot at getting through the experience unscathed.

If committee members rely too much on the "eyeball test," the charge will be that they're ignoring empirical computer data that factors in strength of schedule. If they rely too much on computer data, the charge will be that they're slaves to flawed and unexplained formulas, at the expense of using their eyes to tell them who are the best teams.

There will be accusations of kowtowing to what ESPN wants. There will be accusations of East Coast Bias, Deep South Bias and every other conceivable bias. There will be seeding complaints, geography complaints and endless allegations of backroom deals. The conspiracy theorists will have a whole new playground to run wild in.

So if you want to be on the College Football Playoff selection committee, send your résumé to Bill Hancock or your neighborhood conference commissioner. They may actually need you after the A-list candidates run the other way from a thankless and potentially problematic job.

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