Texas Tech athletics director Kirby Hocutt, a Sherman native, is the lone Texan and one of two new members on the College Football Playoff selection committee this season.
The 13-member committee will set the four-team bracket to determine this year’s national champion, and for a second consecutive season, Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU project as playoff contenders. The Bears (No. 5) and Horned Frogs (No. 6) narrowly missed spots in last year’s bracket.
CFP officials will begin deliberations about fine-tuning the selection process at meetings that begin Tuesday in Irving.
Attendees will include the CFP board of managers (conference commissioners) and members of the athletic directors’ advisory committee, who will consider procedural tweaks for this fall when Hocutt and Bobby Johnson, the former Vanderbilt coach, become weekly attendees during the selection process.
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Hocutt, a former Kansas State linebacker who has overseen Tech’s athletics department since 2011, was appointed in February and looks forward to being part of the CFP equation as the replacement for Oliver Luck, the former West Virginia athletic director who now works for the NCAA.
During a recent interview about merging his CFP duties with his ongoing role at Texas Tech, Hocutt made it clear that he differed with the reasoning cited for elevating Ohio State into last year’s playoff bracket as the No. 4 seed over TCU and Baylor.
At the time, CFP committee chairman Jeff Long said the Buckeyes’ victory in a 13th game — a 59-0 rout of Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game — moved OSU past TCU and Baylor, the Big 12 co-champs that finished 11-1 but did not play in a conference title game.
“What separates our league from everyone else out there is that we play everybody,” Hocutt said, referencing the Big 12’s round-robin schedule that is not used in other Power Five leagues. “I think that is a distinguishing characteristic that elevates the Big 12 Conference over other leagues.
“As it relates to on-field competition, we feel that we stand above others.”
Whether Hocutt’s voice will sway the selection committee will not be known until fall. Also unclear is whether Big 12 officials will alter their approach to determining the league champion, a possibility that will be discussed in May when Big 12 football coaches and athletic directors meet in Phoenix.
During a teleconference last week, the majority of league football coaches expressed a desire to resurrect the conference title game if it would help in landing a more viable candidate for CFP consideration.
Hocutt reflected recently on those topics, as well as Tech’s efforts to rebound from last year’s 4-8 record under football coach Kliff Kingsbury. Below is a look at Hocutt in his own words:
On the upside of joining the CFP selection committee: “I can’t watch enough college football. There’s nothing that I’d rather do. You find yourself disappointed when the season’s over. To watch more college football, I couldn’t be more excited to do that.”
On potential concerns about accepting his CFP role: “It’s the anticipation and the unknown when you haven’t gone through something and it’s been such a public process. I look forward to being part of a distinguished group that just got brought down one notch by my addition into the group.”
On his weekly CFP-related travel requirements this fall: “I feel comfortable we’ve got the staff and coaches in place that can continue to move Texas Tech forward at the pace that we have and still be able to give appropriate attention to the CFP process.”
On how Big 12 administrators can help themselves with the CFP in future seasons that produce co-champions: “We want to continue to seek the [NCAA] waiver to be able to have the championship game with a 10-team league, if we decide that’s something we want to do. At the same time, we’ve spent extensive time talking about [CFP-related tiebreakers] if we had two teams with the same winning percentage in conference play. We plan to take that discussion to Phoenix in May with our football coaches.”
On his preferred CFP-related tiebreaker for the Big 12: “We live in a society that we expect when you go head-to-head and you compete, there’s a winner. My opinion is that winner should be crowned the champion at the end of the day if all else is equal.”
On Tech’s 4-8 football record last season: “It was a disappointing season in so many ways, and unacceptable by our expectations. There’s nothing more you can say other than we’re working to correct that and move us forward at an accelerated pace.”
On coach Kliff Kingsbury, who is 5-13 in his last 18 games after a 7-0 start to his coaching tenure at his alma mater: “Kliff’s a winner, and he is exactly what Texas Tech University needs in building stability and continuity for this football program. I get to see it inside those four walls every day. I see the culture and the environment that he’s building with these young men. Offensively, we’ve got the best offensive mind and coach in the country.”
On recurring issues with penalties and negative turnover margins during Kingsbury’s first two seasons: “We’ve got to be a more disciplined football program, period. We’ve got to be better in those areas. Coach Kingsbury knows that. This coaching staff knows that. These young men know that.”
On a possible Big 12 mandate to strengthen nonconference football schedules and exclude games against FCS schools: “I think that ought to be left to each of the individual schools. But it’s important and it’s going to affect all of us in this new College Football Playoff scenario. So I think we need to hold each other accountable.”
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760