PASADENA, Calif – The news that came out of the Bowl Championship
Series meetings here last month focused on the structure of a new
four-team playoff system that will begin following the 2014 season.
All of that is a sign of progress as we get a step closer to
deciding the championship of college football on the field, rather
than with computer printouts, telling us who's No. 1 or No. 2 with
very little wiggle room.
But the new College Football Playoff system will have a new format
far more powerful, far more significant than any computer printouts
or BCS rankings. It will have a human element – of between 12 and
20 selection committee members who will decide not only who's No.
1, but who is No. 2, 3 and No. 4 in the playoff format. And even
more significantly, who's No. 5, and left out.
BCS executive director and new College Football Playoff Executive
Director Bill Hancock did not mince words, calling the committee
the most prestigious group in college sports. He also talked about
transparency in the selection process.
Hanock also made it clear that when the committee is finally
selected – some time before the end of the summer – the Football
Writers Association of America could very well have a voice – although
it will have to be the voice of an FWAA member who is no longer
affiliated with any news organization.
That too is good news. To be part of the process is also a sign
of progress for the FWAA.
That's the good news. The bad news? Well, whomever is chosen
is going to have deal with a vetting process worthy of Supreme Court
or Cabinet nominee.
And once the selections are made, it will get more intense. The
problem – if you want to call it that – is that this committee,
unlike its basketball brethren on the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball
Tournament Selection Committee, will be playing a much higher stakes
Sure, there is always some grumbling about the teams that are
left out of the men's 68-team tournament field. But the numbers
are still deciding between No. 68 and No. 69.
And that really isn't that big a deal for most of the fan base
of college basketball.
But imagine what the winter of 2014-15 will be like if a debate
between No. 4 and No. 5 develops such as the one that we had a few
years ago when Stanford and Oregon were BCS contenders. Both schools
made it into BCS games, and neither was No. 1 nor No. 2, so it really
wasn't that big a deal.
But it could have been, if one of them had been left out.
Even worse in terms of pressure and scrutiny would be any decision
involving Notre Dame or an SEC team. Or both.
Imagine if Alabama were ranked No. 4 and Notre Dame No. 5. Or
even more realistically if Alabama was No. 4 and LSU or Texas A&M
were ranked No. 5.
Want to take the over on the over and under number of tweets
the committee members will get from the school that finishes No.
There is no easy way to do this, of course. Or a simple way.
It might be better if you have 8 teams involved (and that is coming)
and you have to choose between No. 8 or No. 9. By then, the choices
become easier because after you get past the first 5 or 6 in any
given year, almost everyone has a blemish that you can use against
That is not the case at No. 4 and No. 5. And because this is
the first time the committee will be doing its business, the impressions
will stick far past when the committee changes members.
But it still is a first step, which isn't easy to take. And the
fact that members of the FWAA are being considered to be part of
the process is more than encouraging.
Mark Blaudschun is a veteran sports journalist who served
as the FWAA president in 1999. Since leaving his longtime post at
the Boston Globe, he has created his own blog,
You can also follow him on Twitter