Gil LeBreton

Title game keeps stepping on TCU’s toes

James McFarland, left, Trevone Boykin and TCU blasted Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl, which was the best they could do, thanks to the College Football Playoff committee.
James McFarland, left, Trevone Boykin and TCU blasted Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl, which was the best they could do, thanks to the College Football Playoff committee. Star-Telegram

Of course, one would expect the key protagonists in the first College Football Playoff to scan the billowing attention this weekend and declare the experiment a rousing success.

After all, The Football Stadium in Arlington has never looked more super. The freeways are bereft of snowdrifts. The hotels are brimming. And ESPN is nestled in Sundance Square.

But as they celebrate, the CFP people need to be careful of where they step.

There is an uncomfortable irony that the first committee-elected college football championship will be determined Monday just miles from the one school whose exclusion invalidated the whole process.

We’re talking about 12-1 TCU, the team that won its final two games by a combined score of 97-6. The team that pillaged the team that beat the team that the CFP committee chose as its No. 1.

Old news?

Maybe to our guests from Columbus, Ohio, and no slight is meant here. The Buckeyes deserved to be in the championship discussion, and their victory over No. 1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl proved it.

But the story is not old news here. The Horned Frogs have been ostracized and excluded for most of the past 20 seasons.

The Rose Bowl victory after the 2010 season was a fitting reward. This, though, was a political, unmerited slight, plain and simple.

So, welcome to town, CFP people. If it feels a little chilly around here this weekend, you need to remember why.

At a news conference last Friday, executive director Bill Hancock said he expected there would be no “significant tweaks” to the CFP selection process.

When asked specifically about the TCU anomaly, Hancock answered, “This is a new paradigm. College football has never had anything like this selection committee before. Nothing exemplified the new paradigm more than some of those early rankings, when it became clear that it wasn’t just about wins and losses.”

In a four-team playoff format, maybe the CFP directors feel no remorse in annually excluding a champion from one of the Power 5 conferences. Maybe the commissioners of those excluded conferences, the university presidents and the head football coaches of those slighted champions are also OK with that.

But I doubt it. Four teams are too few. In an ESPN poll right after the playoff lottery winners were announced — in the end, it proved to be a lottery — only 29 percent of the 103 coaches polled felt that the playoff field should remain at four.

Hancock said that concerns remain about “eroding the regular season” if the playoff field is increased.

For now, though, Hancock said, “This worked out really, really well.”

Again, he forgot that he was stepping on local toes.

When Connecticut won the NCAA basketball Final Four here last April, nobody demanded a recount. When Vanderbilt won the College World Series in Omaha, nobody attached an asterisk.

If college football is going to crown its own “one true champion,” why should it leave room for biases and controversy? At least in the old BCS system, you could see the math.

A warm North Texas welcome, nonetheless, is due the Oregon Ducks and Ohio State Buckeyes. May the best one-loss team win.

Oops. Sorry, TCU.

Thanks to the CFP committee, we’ll never know the answer to that.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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