Duke’s Cutcliffe talks playoff selection committee, balance

DURHAM, N.C. — Duke head coach David Cutcliffe has always been a media-friendly guy, and he held a special Football 101 session for the press on Wednesday at Duke. It’s the third year he’s done that, and even seasoned football media showed up to learn from one of the best offensive minds in the game.
A lot of the specifics are not for public consumption, since it had to do with Duke’s strategies. It went beyond labeling the X, Y and Z receivers (which the Blue Devils don’t use) and to different types of routes and formations. It even extended to an informative kickoff return and coverage session, which showed that a lot more goes into that aspect of the game than it would appear. 
It’s easy to see why Cutcliffe and his staff have been able to turn the Duke program around. They can impart information in a way that makes sense, is easy to follow and is fun and engaging. 
But afterward, Cutcliffe held a Q&A session that was on the record. He has been around college football since 1976, and the game has changed quite a bit since then. The biggest change is that there is going to be a four-team playoff starting in 2015. There has been a lot of discussion about who should be on the selection committee, and Cutcliffe has his own opinions. 
He said that the basketball model could work, with athletic directors and conference commissioners. Retired coaches have been mentioned as a possibility, and Cutcliffe isn’t so sure that would work because of the time commitment.
But he did say that current coaches need to be involved in the process. 
“I will stand behind Bill Hancock (BCS executive director, who will continue in a similar capacity for the playoff) and all of those people. They are listening. They are trying to move cautiously and carefully,” Cutcliffe said. “I have confidence in them, but I do believe and hope that they will listen to us as coaches and what our wishes are, because we’re obviously a big part of the game. You can’t deny that. I don’t want to be taken away from that.”
Cutcliffe would also like for current coaches to be more involved in the polls. He’d like for every head coach to vote each week in the Coaches’ Poll, and he added that he wants transparency as well, which is somewhat controversial. When votes have been revealed, it has shown that a lot of head coaches have shown solidarity with their conference rather than ranking the truly better team ahead. Cutcliffe thinks that everything will balance out in the process, though. 
“Just like our country when we elect people, there’s balance in an election. If everybody’s represented, there’s a certain group of people that don’t care about whether it’s an ACC or an SEC team. So there’s some point of balance right there,” Cutcliffe said. “With the transparency, if it’s obvious that one team’s better than another or they’ve played head to head and it was a 35-point win and it’s an ACC team that got beat in that setting by a Big 10 team, I’m going to have to vote for the Big Ten team because I just believe that’s the right thing to do.”
Of course, that transparency wouldn’t be every week. Cutcliffe said he’d only make the last two poll votes of the year transparent rather than every single one. With the obvious problem of a “press conference turning into a poll conference,” per Cutcliffe, there’s also the issue of another team in your league using it as bulletin board material. 
“It’s another reason not to do it until the end, until you only have a couple of opponents left. Occasionally … it may be the last two teams you’ve got (on the schedule). You’re going to have to make one of them mad,” Cutcliffe said, and smiled. “Well, decide which one’s the one you’ve got a chance to beat.”
But the ACC is more together than it’s ever been, and Cutcliffe was excited about the new-look league. Maryland will depart for the Big Ten after next year, but Notre Dame will join as a partial member starting next year. Pittsburgh and Syracuse will join as full members, and Louisville will join in 2014. 
The annual ACC meetings were held in Amelia Island, Fla., in mid-May, and Cutcliffe said that even though Louisville hasn’t joined yet, head coach Charlie Strong showed up for the meetings to discuss the future. Even Maryland head coach Randy Edsall was there for part of the meetings (but not discussions about the future). 
“I think it’s a beginning and I thought it was a great beginning,” Cutcliffe said. “I thought it was a great meeting and we came out of there more unified than we ever had been. I think (Virginia Tech head coach) Frank Beamer would tell you that. I think (Wake Forest head coach) Jim Grobe would tell you that. It was a very productive meeting, and I think part of it was the grant of rights. Part of it is that we’re in this hunt together.”