Panel to weigh championships, strength of schedule for college playoff

Officials at the College Football Playoff outlined the parameters Wednesday that the 13 members of the inaugural selection committee will use to seed participants in next year’s four-team bracket, with chairman Jeff Long stressing that all parties are prepared to tackle a task that will require “long hours and thick skin.”

Among the five guiding principles to be considered by committee members are conference championships, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition, comparative outcomes of common opponents (disregarding margin of victory) and “other relevant factors” such as key injuries during the season.

The 13 committee members, whose names surfaced in reports last week, include three members of the College Football Hall of Fame, five current athletic directors, a retired three-star general and one high-profile female: Dr. Condoleezza Rice, a Stanford professor and former U.S. Secretary of State. Most will serve three-year terms, although some terms will be staggered to avoid everyone leaving simultaneously.

Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, said the lone goal of organizers was to fill the committee with individuals of integrity.

“With these 13 people, we’ve absolutely nailed that,” Hancock said.

Hancock also said Rice “definitely earned her spot on this committee” despite criticism last week from former Auburn coach Pat Dye and others about her lack of a football background. Dye suggested the committee should include only those who had played the game “with your hand in the dirt.”

Rice, who helped hire two Stanford football coaches (Dennis Green, Tyrone Willingham) during her tenure as the school’s provost, said Wednesday that she respected Dye’s opinion but added “there is a reason” corporations do not fill their executive boards entirely with former CEOs. Independent thinkers, she said, have their role.

“You want people who can make hard decisions under pressure,” Rice said in a teleconference with committee members. “I think I’ve experienced plenty of heat in my life. I’ve been a college football fan all my life. I’m a student of the game.”

Among Rice’s fellow committee members will be three inductees in the sport’s Hall of Fame: former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez and Archie Manning, a former Ole Miss and NFL quarterback who is the father of current NFL quarterbacks Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos) and Eli Manning (New York Giants).

Unlike the current BCS system, which uses a formula with computer rankings and human polls to determine participants in the national title game, members of the selection committee will have the flexibility to examine whatever data they consider pertinent in seeding teams. Members will have multiple in-person meetings as well as conference calls during the seeding process. Individuals who work for a school under consideration by committee members will be recused during discussions about that team.

Long, who also serves as Arkansas’ athletic director, said the plan is to produce a regular ranking of the committee’s Top 25 teams, starting at midseason next year. The ranking will be a consensus opinion based on committee discussions rather than a points-based compilation of different individual polls used to produce The Associated Press’ rankings.

The first championship game of the playoff era will be Jan. 12, 2015 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Manning said he considered it “a real honor” to be included on the inaugural selection committee and praised the ability of his colleagues to “check any loyalty at the door” when breaking down the merits of the nation’s top four teams.

“I can do it,” Manning said. “It’s not going to be a problem. Our objective is to rate the top four teams regardless of what conference they’re from, and I’ll do that to the best of my ability.”