Condi Rice more than qualified, but playoff committee doesn’t fix college football’s problem

10/10/2013 4:58 PM

10/16/2013 2:39 PM

As National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice helped shaped the nation’s response to terrorism after 9/11.

As Secretary of State, Rice worked with friends and dealt with enemies around the world at negotiating tables and in back rooms. There was talk of her joining the Republican ticket in 2008.

And some think she’s not qualified to sit on a committee to help pick teams for the College Football Playoff starting next year? Yeah, right.

The committee, to be officially announced next week, will be honored by her presence.

If you’re bothered by Rice openly cheering for Stanford, where she served as provost in the 1990s and currently teaches as a professor, the committee presumably will take care of that by excusing any member from the room when his or her employer is discussed. That’s the way it has worked on NCAA selection committees.

No, the presence of any one individual on the committee won’t be an issue when it gets to work in 2014.

The problem is the committee itself.

Now that college football has taken the next step by starting a four-team tournament next year, the sport needs to reach a point where its postseason isn’t determined by opinion but by performance.

College football will continue to be about who somebody thinks should play for a championship. The only difference between 2014 and the 16 years of the Bowl Championship Series era will be an additional round of games, the semifinals.

Instead of a BCS ranking that combines opinion and computer data to determine the final two teams, the College Football Playoff will engage fewer opinions, but they’ll rely on data the way basketball committees work with the Ratings Percentage Index and other reports to help reach their conclusion.

Controversial selections won’t be eliminated. Only the target for finger pointing will be reduced, from the 175 or so voters in the USA Today coaches’ and Harris Interactive polls that make up two-thirds of the BCS standings, to the 15 or so committee members.

Let’s play the for-instance game using this year’s records. The top four ranked teams — Alabama, Oregon, Clemson and Ohio State — win their conferences with perfect records. So do Oklahoma and Louisville.

Undefeated teams from all the top conferences would be an extreme circumstance but not impossible. Who plays in the semifinals and who gets relegated to the access bowls?

Whether a BCS standing pulls two teams from this confusion or a selection committee picks four, college football is left without a conclusion. A split national champion would still be possible.

This brings us to the real problem with college football’s postseason future, one we’ve expressed here before. As long as major conferences don’t agree on how their champion is selected and on a nonconference scheduling philosophy, the playing field isn’t merely uneven, it slopes in several directions. Some teams would have played 13 games because of a conference championship, some 12. Some would have emerged through complete round-robin league scheduling, most would not have.

Cream-puff nonconference scheduling would have padded some records, challenging nonconference slates would damage others.

I’ve long agreed with college presidents who have railed against an NFL-like tournament, but no longer. College football needs to leave behind the ambiguity that not long ago gave us LSU and Southern California as national champions in the same season. Uncertainty will continue into the new playoff era.

If this means creating a separation of classification — the Southeastern Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast — for football, so be it. In this structure, the majors would agree on rules such as stipends for players, schedules and how to select a champion. It could even have its own director or commissioner.

Someone like Condoleezza Rice.

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