Let’s be honest: This playoff thing can work

Posted Saturday, Apr. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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lebreton For a name so plain and unpretentious, it speaks volumes.

College Football Playoff.

Even Brent Musburger can’t ham that up.

But don’t you see? Though cleverly crafted, this is just the working title. There is more than enough room on the front of “College Football Playoff” for a mega-bucks title sponsor.

For now, though, it shows the lawyers’ savvy touch. There is no mention of the NCAA or “Division I” in the title. Nor does it include the word “national,” because that would presume a degree of inclusion that could one day invite lawsuits or, in an election year, Congress.

Best of all, the new name replaces the three letters that so many college football fans have come to abhor — BCS.

Beginning with the 2014 season, the Bowl Championship Series is no more. No more, we hope, USA Today coaches polls. No more Sagarin ratings. No more Sunday night shows, unveiling the latest standings.

Naturally, an occasion this grand calls for the nation’s grandest stadium. As Bill Hancock, executive director of the newly named playoff, said last week, the decision to award the first championship game in January, 2015, to Arlington, “came down to the stadium — ‘The’ stadium, with a capital ‘T.’”

The only other bidder for the right to host the first game was Tampa, Fla. But Cowboys Stadium, even when Jerry Jones doesn’t try to squeeze in more seats, can hold about 30,000 more spectators than Raymond James Stadium’s listed capacity of 65,857.

The extra seating could mean as much as $20 million in gate revenue. Or it could provide seats for a few thousand more ESPN sponsors, all of whom will be able to sit in climate-controlled comfort. Can any other bid city guarantee as much?

For Hancock and the conference commissioners, that was the easy part. Now comes the heavy lifting — deciding upon the group that will select the initial four-team playoff.

Jeremy Foley, Florida’s influential athletic director, has already told reporters how he feels about the thankless task.

Paraphrasing LBJ, Foley said, “If asked, I will not serve.”

But the job is far from an impossible one. Ten-member committees choose the at-large teams for the NCAA basketball and baseball tournaments each year.

Four teams or 64 teams, it shouldn’t matter. Competence and integrity shouldn’t be compromised by the size of the bracket.

We already know what we don’t want to see. We don’t want loopholes. We don’t want coaches politicking their way into the playoff. We don’t want automatic bids. We don’t want computers picking the teams.

Most of all, we want transparency. No more secret ballots. No more anonymous Harris or coaches votes.

Hancock said that the size of the selection committee has not been determined, but suggested something “between 10 and 24.”

Whoever is chosen, allegations of bias, real or imagined, are unavoidable. Given the $470 million annual rights fee from ESPN, the pressure on the selectors will be unprecedented.

Florida’s Foley is right. Leave the athletic directors out of this. Leave the conference commissioners as well.

There must be 20 honest men or women in America who can watch college football and vote for its best four teams.

Let the public decide, therefore, who is a worthy voter. Make the entire process transparent. Televise the selection committee’s weekly meetings. Surely, ESPN has available TV time on the Longhorn or SEC networks.

Make it like that Donald Trump show, The Apprentice. Televise the meetings and show the votes. Then let America phone in each week and fire one committee member.

The 10 or 12 voters who are left — as partly chosen by the nation’s college fans, so don’t complain — will select the final four teams.

A grand game, played in a grand stadium, calls for a selection system above reproach.

The Transparency Bowl.

Now there’s a name.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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