Grading Every Choice on College Football's New Playoff Selection Committee
The new era of college football is upon us, and now that era has a face.
Thirteen faces, to be exact.
The College Football Playoff (CFP) announced on Wednesday the 13-member panel that will decide the four teams invited to participate in the first four-team playoff following the 2013-14 season.
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long will serve as the first chairman of the playoff selection committee and will be joined by 12 other dignitaries, including former Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning, former Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne and former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Our grades for each of the 13 members are in this slideshow.
Arkansas AD Jeff Long: F
Jeff Long gets an F because all sitting athletic directors will get an F.
Sitting athletic directors should never be considered for this committee, especially since, according to ESPN's Joe Schad, members won't be paid.
The livelihood of these volunteers depends on their day jobs, and despite how unbiased any of them claim to be, their loyalty will always rest with their paycheck.
Sure, anytime a member's school is in discussion, that member will recuse themselves from the discussion. But that won't prevent them from choosing teams based on what helps their school based on conference affiliation or opponent.
The CFP has the money to hire a full-time staff of "college football analysts" to serve on this committee, with contractually mandated exclusivity part of the deal. Instead, it chose to pattern this committee after the college basketball selection committee despite football being more subjective and the two sports having entirely different landscapes.
But if we're going to go down the road of having ADs on the committee, Long is a good choice. He proved during the Bobby Petrino scandal that he's willing to make the tough decision, own the tough decision and be transparent with what information he used to make that decision.
He's a sitting AD, though, and sitting ADs shouldn't even be considered.
Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez: F
All athletic directors fail this test, even athletic directors that are former coaches.
But when it comes to athletic directors that are former coaches, it's hard to find one better than Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez.
He's a lifelong college football man who's a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame, and the winningest head coach in Wisconsin history (118-74-4). As the head coach of three conference title teams, he knows that it takes to win at an elite level and recognizes what makes a team worthy of consideration for the playoff.
Alvarez welcomes the challenge with open arms, according to Stewart Mandel of SI.com:
Barry Alvarez: "I've been involved in college football my whole life. This is a humbling opportunity for me to give back."— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) October 16, 2013
As is the case with Long, he's a good choice since we're going down the road of having ADs on the panel, but we should have taken the road less traveled.
Lt. Gen. Mike Gould: B
Lt. Gen. Mike Gould isn't a name normally associated with football, but his presence on the panel actually makes sense.
He is a retired pilot with 3,261 flying hours, served as superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy from 2009-2013 and was an aide to the president.
Two things stand out about Gould—his resume is full of the word "former," and he's a military man.
He's not contractually tied to any one institution, which means his potential conflicts of interest will be limited to personal relationships. That's not ideal, but certainly a step up from ADs, who in addition to having their bank accounts inflated based on the success of their particular program, have personal relationships in play.
As a retired three-star general, Gould has had to make plenty of tough decisions during his decorated career. His specific football knowledge coming in is a nonfactor, and he's a proven leader.
That's the kind of people we need on the panel.
USC AD Pat Haden: F
Like Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez, USC athletic director Pat Haden is a former player who's now serving as an athletic director. His football knowledge is nice, but his loyalty remains to his paycheck just like every other AD.
There's simply no way for a sitting AD to avoid a conflict of interest, even if they leave the room when their program is being discussed. If you believe that Haden is not going to vote based on what helps the Pac-12 or his team if the Trojans are in discussion, I have some oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you.
Haden does have some credentials that make him attractive. In addition to playing in college and the NFL, he served as a commentator for a variety of entities from 1982-2009. That's a lot of football, and his experience gave him the depth of knowledge needed to know the game from a 40,000-foot view, which is a plus for the panel. He knows the game, played the game and has witnessed how it has changed in a variety of capacities.
But as is the case with other ADs, his loyalty is to his paycheck, and for that he gets an F.
Tom Jernstedt: A
Tom Jernstedt isn't a name normally associated with football, but he's a lifelong sports administrator who's served in a variety of capacities for several conferences and sports-related entities.
He has been a supervisor of the NCAA Football Board of Directors of the top three divisions, the Football Issues Committee and College Football Officiating LLC. He has a 40,000-foot view of the sport in a variety of different roles and experience in making administrative decisions related to the game.
That's exactly what this committee will be charged with.
He's been involved in college athletics for nearly four decades, and while his football acumen isn't going to be as high as Alvarez's or Haden's, it doesn't have to be. He has been around the game for his entire career and has the management experience required to be a perfect fit for the committee.
West Virginia AD Oliver Luck: F
Like several others of his fellow athletic directors on the committee, West Virginia AD Oliver Luck has significant football experience that will benefit the panel.
He is a former quarterback for the Mountaineers and the Houston Oilers, serves on the NFL's Player Safety Advisory Committee, and is a former general manager in the now-defunct World League of American Football.
All good things, but if a Big 12 team is in consideration or WVU can get an easier path based on which opponent is selected, how do you think Luck will vote?
He's fine choice given the criteria set forth by the CFP, and his grade—like the other ADs—isn't personal or a knock against him at all. It's the criteria set forth by the CFP that's the problem.
Archie Manning: A
Can we clone Archie Manning and have him take all 13 spots on this committee?
He's known as "former Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning," but Manning's college football experience goes far beyond his time in Oxford.
He is a member the College Football Hall of Fame, is a board member of the National Football Foundation, has been instrumental in the relocation of the College Football Hall of Fame to Atlanta and has joined CBS for its halftime shows for the last several years.
He has intricate knowledge of the game from a micro level, but also the broad-based view of the entire national landscape based on his work in the media and with the National Football Foundation.
Tom Osborne: B+
The word "former" means a lot in grading the appointments to the CFP, and having it in front of Tom Osborne's name makes him a good fit.
The three-time national-championship-winning head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers retired as the athletic director on Jan. 1 of this year. Why?
According to the Orlando Sentinel, after spending six months as an consultant during Nebraska's transition, he intended to "chill out, spend time with his family and go fishing."
That tells me that Osborne has time, and time is what needs to be invested in order to make this committee successful.
Sure, his Nebraska ties are a bit of a concern, but can't change your history. Osborne isn't Nebraska's AD anymore, and while there's a concern he could play favorites, Osborne is a man who knows football, loves football and can make tough decisions regarding football regardless of the teams in discussion.
Clemson AD Dan Radakovich: F
Dan Radakovich has enjoyed a stellar career as the athletic director at American University, Georgia Tech and now Clemson. But as is the case with all other sitting ADs, Radakovich gets and F because no sitting AD should be considered for positions on the playoff selection committee.
Radakovich serves as one of 10 athletic directors serving on an advisory role to make recommendations on rules and policies. He's also a former player himself at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
These members won't be paid, which means their livelihood depends on the success of their own institution.
It doesn't matter if they recuse themselves during discussion of their own teams. The combination of a paycheck being drawn by a school in consideration swaying judgement of a number of teams and the personal relationships developed over the years presents way too many potential conflicts of interest.
Condoleezza Rice: C
Knock former United State Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice if you wish, but she's not the problem in this committee. In fact, her presence could help it tremendously.
She's a lifelong diplomat, and her experience in politics at the highest level will be a tremendous asset. Like it or not, this is politics—just on a much smaller level than Rice is used to.
This quote from Rice courtesy of Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News sold me on Rice:
Rice on role: "Important that all of us feel comfortable asking hard questions of each other. That's what builds confidence in the process."— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) October 16, 2013
This is football, not rocket science. She's a lifelong football fan and the daughter of a high school coach. It certainly seems like she's going to dive into the deep end and give this her all. That, plus her diplomatic experience, makes her an adequate choice given the committee selection criteria.
Mike Tranghese: B-
Mike Tranghese's career has been filled with college administrative roles ranging from the sports information director at American Intercontinental College and Providence College to his time as the Big East commissioner from 1990-2009.
During his time at the Big East, he oversaw the launch of the Big East's football expansion in 1991, was chairman of the College Commissioners Association and was a member of the men's college basketball selection committee from 1996-2001.
Ideally, the football selection committee shouldn't be patterned after its hoops cousin. But it is, and because of that, having somebody who has been in the environment is a benefit to this committee.
Tranghese is a lifelong administrator who has a firm grasp of what's good for the big picture of college football. That's a benefit to this committee, especially once the members evolve into the specific roles they'll play in the deliberation room.
Steve Wieberg: A+
There should be more members of the sports media involved in this process, but as it is, Steve Wieberg will be the only true member of the media included on the committee.
He's a perfect fit.
A longtime college football writer for more than three decades for USA Today, Wieberg has the experience covering college football on an intricate level from an unbiased point of view.
That's exactly what the members of the committee should be striving for, and once they sit in the room, it's likely that Wieberg will emerge as one of the constant voices of reason among the 13-member panel.
Ideally, the committee should be comprised of a balanced mix of former coaches/athletes, media members and administrative staff—all of whom are exclusively paid by the CFP. That's not the case, and as the only true media member on the panel, Wieberg will prove to be the most balanced and impartial when all is said and done.
Hopefully, that will serve as a jumping-off point for the members who should be invited once the current members start rotating out of their roles and the playoff committee evolves.
Tyrone Willingham: B-
The committee needs former coaches on it, and Tyrone Willingham is a solid choice.
No, his coaching accolades aren't going to jump off the page—his final season at Washington in 2008 was an 0-12 debacle—but as a former head coach at Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington, Willingham has the knowledge required to know what makes a good football team regardless of geography.
He knows West Coast football, knows Midwest football and has three decades of experience as an assistant coach all over the country. Those personal relationships developed along the way could prove to be problematic, but let's be honest, they're more likely to cancel each other out in any given debate rather than sway Willingham one way or another.
Head coaches are CEOs, and CEOs make tough decisions. That's enough to make him an adequate choice for the selection committee.