College football playoff selector not a ‘dangerous’ position
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As of late, Bill Hancock doesn’t sleep quite as well as he used to. But it has nothing to do with the name of the new College Football Playoff (which was panned), the logo of the new College Football Playoff (which was panned, then ballot-stuffed, then panned again), or the fact he played the part of human shield for the Bowl Championship Series since 2005.
“Broke a femur right at the top, right where it connects with the hip,” chuckles Hancock, the Kansas City-based executive director of the College Football Playoff, or CFP, recounting a fall during a March visit to Italy.
“And I had to get a new hip. I have an Italian hip. It’s getting better every day, and I’ll be on crutches for a few months. Makes me realize we’re all pretty lucky.”
Over the past two months, his hip has been broken, his online polls have been hacked, and his new playoff has been beaten like an old rug. Yet there’s Hancock, always smiling, always lugging around a glass that’s half full.
Of what, of course, depends on whom you ask.
“This is not going to play well on Twitter,” Hancock tells FOX Sports Kansas City, “but we don’t have a timetable. We’re just working through the (options) at a deliberate pace, and that’s fine.”
He’s home now, having just completed a victory lap of sorts last week in Pasadena, Calif., where Football Bowl Subdivision conference commissioners met and lifted the curtain on the CFP, its name and its sites (the first title game is scheduled for Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex., on Jan. 12, 2015). A logo — the outline of a football in gold, designed by Premier Sports Management of Overland Park, Kan. — was recently introduced, representing the four-team playoff format that’s earmarked to begin in 2014. It won an online poll of four possible designs, a survey that wound up getting hacked by an Austin, Texas, IP address last week, a gambit that saw a surge of 50,000 votes, reportedly, for a logo that featured a football stuck on a compass.
“Of course, anybody who does anything like this,” says Hancock, who’s slated to meet with commissioners next month in Colorado, “has to be prepared to be hacked.”
Scrutinized, too. Which brings us to the hard part, the next nail in the BCS coffin: finding a playoff selection committee.
Several big-time athletic directors were queried recently to gauge their interest, and their response was almost unanimous: shriek in horror, throw up their hands and run screaming for the hills.
The trepidation is understandable — there are lunatic fringes that follow every sport, but college football fandom seems to have more of those fringes, per capita, than the average bear. If some whack-job went out of his way to mess with the bloody logo, imagine what sort of chaos might infect the inbox of a selector who’s perceived as snubbing, say, Ohio State or Alabama.
“I respect the people who say that they’d rather not be on it, and I understand that,” Hancock says. “I don’t subscribe to the theory that it would be dangerous, or we would need the witness protection program.
“I really think it would be one of the most prestigious committees in college athletics. Would it be hard? Of course. But it would be rewarding, and I think the first class of members would be honored to be in that class.”
Honored, perhaps. Taxed, no question. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament selection committee is charged with finding 37 at-large teams out of 347 hoops-playing members, or around 11 percent of the pool. The CFP committee, whatever that looks like, will have to find four out of 125, or 3.2 percent.
“Yeah, there’s a right balance — we haven’t decided what it is,” says Hancock, who’ll keep a home in the Kansas suburbs but will commute to the new CFP offices in greater Dallas. “But there is a right balance. And there are many qualified people who love this game and know this game. And who are high-integrity, and people who are tough enough to make difficult decisions, and who care enough about the game to make the decisions that are in the best interests of the game.”
Because you can run, you can deflect, you can spin, but you can’t hide. While the value of the print medium is at an all-time low, fact-checking is at an all-time high. Every inch of a selector’s resume is going to become gospel in the college football capitals of the free world, where grey area is often a perilously endangered species. You’re either with us, or you’re against us.
“We’re going to be as transparent as we can possibly be,” Hancock says. “We haven’t explored all the ways in which this can be done. But it’s very important to all of us that this be the most transparent it can be.”
That includes regular, late-season polls or standings, similar to the ones the BCS utilizes now. They may be bad for the sanity of the selectors, but they’re awfully, awfully good for business. Hancock knows this. The conference commissioners he has to dance with know it, too.
“That’s one of the many things on the table,” Hancock allows. “‘How often does the committee say what it thinks?’ Obviously, the BCS standings come out eight times a year. And, as all of us know, those BCS standings have added a great deal to the regular season.
“And personally, I don’t anticipate eight committee rankings. But is there a possibility that there could be some number, over the last half of the season, of times the committee comes out and says, ‘As of today, these are the top teams?’ I think there’s a possibility of that.
“We just don’t know. And it’s fine that we don’t know. We have plenty of time.”
And plenty of eyes. Watching. Waiting.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org