With Tuesday's announcement that the college football playoffs are officially a go, there are still a handful of questions that are currently unanswered. To help put the current state of affairs into context, check out this video of SB Nation college football editor Jason Kirk breaking down where things stand (seriously, it's good, watch it):
Some of those unanswered questions include who will be on the selection committee and how the selection committee will go about determining the top four teams in the country. The first issue is who should serve and it seems clear that former coaches like Barry Switzer aren't exactly unbiased enough for the job. As funny as it is to imagine Switzer in such a role, um, that would probably be a catastrophe. He expressed enough antipathy towards Texas in a recent SB Nation interview (read it if you haven't) that there's no way he could put aside his bias against the Longhorns to make a fair and impartial decision regarding the 'Horns.
College basketball has 10 members of the selection committee that determines the teams that will participate in the NCAA tournament and Big 10 commish Jim Delany thinks the number will be between 10 and 20 for football. It's still not clear exactly what type of people will make up that committee, though BCS executive director Bill Hancock said that each conference will be represented, but didn't clarify whether that was every every conference or just the ones that matter.
It looks like there will be a ranking system similar to the BCS formula that would help the committee come to their collective decisions:
According to Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, the as yet unmanned selection committee charged with choosing teams for a four-team playoff beginning in 2014 will pick up where the BCS left off by publishing weekly rankings over the second half of the regular season. Like the rest of the details surrounding the playoff, criteria for the rankings is TBD - one more battle for conference commissioners to fight amongst themselves - but Swarbrick told the South Bend Tribune Wednesday that there is a consensus to create some degree of transparency: "We didn't want the top four teams to just come out of the blue at the end of the season."
A FanHouse columnist made an argument for absolute transparency:
There's no way to make everybody happy. But if the selection committee is as sincere and unbiased as we're told it will be, there is one way to show it: Show it.
Televise the meetings where the final four teams are selected. Let skeptical fans see it's an honest, open, angst-filled process.
Matt Hinton essentially believes that publishing the rankings would provide the necessary level of insight into the proceedings:
Transparency is good, but it can also enflame inevitable controversies on those occasions when the committee decides to overrule the rankings by, say, selecting No. 5 Oregon over No. 4 Stanford when the circumstances dictate. That's why you have a committee: To make judgment calls re: conference championships and head-to-head wins and injuries and any other relevant detail that might not show up in the formula. By publicly ordering the teams, though, instead of simply dropping the playoff field in December like stone tablets from a mountaintop, they're also helping undermine borderline decisions and publishing a readymade rebuttal for critics. ("How could they pick Oregon when their own rankings said Stanford was better?") I suppose when the alternative is taking heat for conducting business behind closed doors, hoping fans can learn to live with a little cognitive dissonance is just the cost of letting them peek inside.
Of course, there are also realignment questions. For those who won't want to see college football end up with four 16-team superconferences, the fact that the playoffs won't be tied into the conference championships is a good sign, although that was never particularly likely given that there are still six reasonably legitimate conferences (yeah, the Big East sort of counts, ish, to the extent that it still exists). But a conference champion tie-in was never really going to happen in the first place without some more realignment happening first, so...
After a break from the conference realignment speculation as all sides waited for the playoff format to emerge, another round of speculation is set to begin, though the intensity of those discussions and the impact of the format on any potential movement is mostly to be determined at this point.
The fulcrum still appears to be the Big 12, which indicated it's not pursuing expansion at this time (of course they would say that). In reality, there's probably really enough opposition from the power brokers of the conference opposed to expansion at this time, and the conference members are paid well enough and set up well enough for the future, that setting of the powder keg of likely large-scale coalescing into superconferences isn't something the league wants to mess with -- there's just no real incentive right now.
Notre Dame may be the one school that holds the trump card, as a desire to move non-football sports to the Big 12 and form a football partnership with the league could prompt the poaching of Florida State, which might otherwise be left sulking in the corner wanting a little more attention. "Yeah, you're pretty, but..." Sort of like a hotter and classier Missouri. Or something.
As always with realignment rumors, conventional wisdom will surely change by the hour if this whole machine gets ramped up again.
And we have a playoff. Somewhat lost in all this is the fact that it's a pretty good thing to have.