The Southeastern Conference not only sets the college football agenda on the field, it leads the off-gridiron discussions. This time, it’s the makeup of the College Football Playoff committee.
Bill Hancock, the BCS executive director who will hold the same role with the College Football Playoff beginning in 2014, said Wednesday at the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla., that he expects his group will consider some 100 or so candidates for what will be 12 to 20 positions on the committee.
The committee’s most important charges: Select the four teams for the semifinals, and the at-large teams for the four other major bowl games.
Simply because of greater interest in college football, the stakes will be higher in basketball, where a committee selects at-large teams and seeds the 68-team Division I NCAA Tournament field.
In conversations with some of the major players involved in the decision, including College Football Playoff and major conference executives, there’s agreement that current commissioners won’t be part of the football committee. Nor will current media members.
Conflicts of interest are too great for both groups. Commissioners represent the interests of their conference. I have no doubt the SEC’s Mike Slive, Big 12’s Bob Bowlsby, Big Ten’s Jim Delany and others can be objective. They’ve all served on the basketball committee. But this committee needs to be free, or as free as it can be, from all doubt.
No current media member, not an ESPN broadcaster, newspaper columnist, radio host, can be included — or at least be included and not be expected to report in real time about what’s happening.
Current athletic directors could be considered, but the lean is toward former administrators, coaches and former media members.
Hancock, at the SEC meetings, said, “We need people with the courage to make difficult decisions.”
On another but related matter, SEC coaches reportedly voted 13-1 to maintain an eight-game conference football schedule, with Alabama’s Nick Saban the only dissenter.
The league should follow Saban.
Four nonconference games are too many for a major conference. Some SEC schools like Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are locked into rugged state rivalry games, but that’s not true for the rest of the league.
But here’s why the SEC should play a nine-game conference slate: Schedule strength will become a factor in the College Football Playoff. For the first time in major college football history, an influential board — the committee — will give a thumb’s up or down on postseason inclusion and it will be required to defend its decisions.
The committee will need a way to separate 11-1 teams, and the one that played the more difficult non-league schedule will have the advantage.
The SEC is the strongest conference. Adding a conference game toughens the schedule. Plus, the Pac-12, Big 12 play nine, and the Big Ten will in 2016.